Beijing Spring, 1989: Confrontation and Conflict: the Basic Documents

By Michel Oksenberg; Lawrence R. Sullivan et al. | Go to book overview

VII
Premonitions of Violence

This section begins with the government's reaction to yet another student "insult" to the Communist state: the erection of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue in Tiananmen. Crafted at the Central Arts Academy, this newly proclaimed symbol of democracy in China was to be the students' last defiant act before vacating the square. According to the June 1 People's Daily article (Doc. 54), however, their action was actually a "serious disruption of democracy and freedom." As in the CPC's response to the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s, the Communist leadership now decided to turn the students' advocacy of democracy against them. Two days later, the same paper published a long accusatory article against the students (Doc. 55), partially comprised of Li Ximing's May 19 briefing (Doc. 45 above). Although this People's Daily article contains no attribution, Beijing citizens could now read Li's views on the nefarious "plots" of the "very few" who indicated their incredible deviousness by actually chanting progovernment slogans such as "support the CPC."1 In this sense, China's hard-line leaders once again resorted to Cultural Revolution--style rhetoric by accusing the students of a contemporary version of "waving the Red Flag, to oppose the Red Flag" (that is, Red Guard factions who had purportedly quoted Mao to actually attack him).

The June 3 article also reinforced the image of a crisis out of control by claiming that crime in Beijing was now rampant, though the examples given here--for instance, the theft from a milk truck--are not very persuasive.2 The city was purportedly in "chaos," with "pandemonium" threatening the entire

____________________
1
The published selections of Li Ximing's speech contain some interesting additions and deletions. Additions include his claim that Beijing University posters had attacked Mao Zedong, while the most interesting deletion is Li's accusation that the Bush administration had interfered in the demonstrations.
2

The article also contradicts sympathetic Chinese and foreign observations that life in Beijing had actually become more civil during the movement, with even petty thieves

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