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

By Qiao Li; Michel Oksenberg et al. | Go to book overview

IX
The Aftermath A Nation Divided

For two days after the massacre, China's government was curiously quiet. Rumors abounded in Beijing and abroad that Deng Xiaoping was incapacitated (or dead), and that a civil war between contending armies--the 38th and the notorious 27th (which carried out most of the killing on June 3-4)--was imminent.1 In the city, government authority, except in areas controlled by the troops, was nonexistent, as posters and signs went up in neighborhoods describing the violence of the crackdown and estimating casualties. But finally, on June 7, the government responded to events when State Council spokesman Yuan Mu, joined by a military commander, convened a news conference to "explain" the crackdown of June 3-4 (Doc. 57). The army had simply responded, Yuan argued, to the giant conspiracy of "a very few thugs [who] engineered a counterrevolutionary rebellion." Three hundred people had died, he estimated, including many soldiers and "bad elements who deserve this because of their crimes."2 But virtually no one had been killed or run over in Tiananmen, Commander Zhang Gong then reported, because

____________________
1
Clashes between soldiers were reported in the Xuanwu district of Beijing, though Yang Shangkun quickly renounced such "rumors." Foreign military attachés in Beijing also noted the defensive positions assumed by tanks. Other armies taking part in enforcing martial law, such as the 40th Army from the Northeast, were praised by local residents in Dongzhimen for their restraint in not firing on the citizenry.
2
That Yuan smiled when giving the casualty count especially outraged Beijing residents. His count of 300 dead (including only 23 students) is not shared by Western human rights organizations, which have given figures between 700 and 3,000. Amnesty International, People's Republic of China: Preliminary Findings of Killings of Unarmed Civilians, Arbitrary Arrests and Summary Executions since June 31, 1989 ( New York: August 1989).

-359-

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