Military dispersal of a student demonstration on the main square of Beijing turned 25 years
The riots in Tiananmen Square 4 June 1989 of the year - the tragic finale of mass student protests, which lasted two months. The authorities condemned the peaceful protest as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” and ordered the army to suppress the peaceful demonstration. As a result of the dispersal of unarmed demonstrators, hundreds of people died.
The "bourgeois liberty"
The Chinese student movement in the eighties is inseparably linked with the name of Hu Yaobang, the secretary general of the Communist Party and an associate of the de facto leader of the PRC, the "great reformer" Dan Xiaoping. Together, they led China to a more open political system, becoming a symbol of democratic reform. Unlike Dan, in 1986, Hu publicly supported demonstrations of students demanding to speed up political and economic reforms. The students took to the streets after a tour of Chinese universities, professor of astrophysics Fan Lizhi, who returned from Princeton and actively shared his impressions of Western democracy. Hu supported student demands for democratization, and his resignation was instantly provoked by a group of party conservatives for promoting “bourgeois freedoms” and “conniving at Western influence”. Instead of him, Premier Zhao Ziyang was quickly elected General Secretary, who soon repeated the fate of his predecessor.
Two years later, 15 on April 1989, Hu Yaobang died of a heart attack. The death of one of the most liberal rulers of communist China caused a wave of student unrest across the country. The activists gathered in front of the headquarters of the Communist Party demanded the political rehabilitation of Hu. Pretty quickly, the mass grief over it acquired the character of protest against the current government. In dozens of universities in the country, students called for boycotting classes.
Photo: Liu Heung Shing / AP
A week after the death of the eighth Secretary General, Tiananmen gathered about 100 thousands of people who chanted the main protest slogan - “Dadao guandao!” (“Down with corrupt bureaucrats!”). Protesters demanded to make public information about the incomes of state leaders and their family members, to stop censorship, to remove restrictions on public speaking, to increase funding for the educational sphere and to increase wages for intellectual workers.
A tent camp was set up on the square itself. The students now and then dragged in the anthem of the Internationale, organized marches were held daily. Two days before Mikhail Gorbachev’s planned visit to the country, the demonstrators announced a mass hunger strike. The ceremony of the meeting of the President of the USSR was planned to be held in Tiananmen. As planned by the student leaders, the hunger strike should have forced the government to meet the demands of the protesters so that they would release the square. Inspired by the revolutionary atmosphere, young people gathered from all over the country. Thirteenth of May on the square gathered 300 thousand people.
In a few weeks of protest, the Chinese government actually lost control of the situation. In addition to Beijing, performances were held in Shanghai, Chonkin, Wuhan and dozens of other cities. The Chinese police simply did not have enough experience to cope with mass civil mobilization. The police did not have water cannons or any other means to disperse speeches and prevent riots.
As the crowd grew, slogans became increasingly critical and radical. 84-year-old Deng Xiaoping himself attacked - they wrote satirical rhymes on the banners, making fun of the “old marazmatic”. As Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who closely followed the development of the situation, later recalled, at that moment it became clear that the demonstration would end in tragedy: “in stories China has not yet been the emperor, who, being mocked, would continue to rule the country. "
Tanks in Tiananmen Square. Photo: Jeff Widener / AP
The authorities made some concessions. By mid-May, significant indulgences were made in state-controlled media. TV channels began to cover the life of the tent camp and the hungry. On behalf of the authorities, the head of the Patriotic United Front of the Chinese People, Jan Minfu, met with the demonstrators - ostensibly to foster a “dialogue”. He recognized the protest movement as “patriotic” and urged students to free the square.
“You are not like us!”
At a meeting with Gorbachev on May 16, which was covered by Western journalists, Zhao Ziyang told the Soviet leader that Deng Xiaoping was the real leader of China. This public recognition indirectly put an end to both Zhao’s political career and the protest movement. Dan understood that Zhao’s remark was an attempt to shift responsibility for what was happening in Beijing to him. This was the split between the two highest-ranking statesmen of China. Zhao was not saved even by the fact that at one time it was his industrial reforms in the province of Sichuan that were adapted and applied throughout the country, which was thus the “economic miracle” of Deng Xiaoping.
In Beijing, 17 in May, there were about a million protesters and sympathetic citizens. This was the peak of civil mobilization. As more and more social groups came into protest with completely different complaints and slogans, it became less and less clear who the government should contact and which requirements to comply with. The most alarming call for the authorities was that several army units had gone over to the side of the students. On the evening of May 17, Dan held a meeting of the standing committee of the politburo at his residence, which discussed the imposition of martial law. Zhao Ziyang was criticized at the meeting. Deng, who remembered the founding of the PRC and the "cultural revolution," urged the party leaders that if not to pacify Beijing, the country would be drawn into a bloody civil war.
Early in the morning of May 19, Zhao himself came out to a crowd of demonstrators with a megaphone. The disgraced leader of China apologized to the students and acknowledged that their criticism was necessary. He told the protesters that they were still young, that they needed to stop the hunger strike, be strong and see great modernized China in the future.
“You are not like us!” We are old, for us it doesn't matter anymore, ”Zhao shouted.
Photo: Jeff Widener / AP
This is how Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew described this turning point in his book Singapore Story: “I have a sad picture in my memory of the events on Tiananmen Square: Zhao Ziyang standing in the middle of the square crowded with demonstrators with headbands written slogans, with a megaphone in hand. Almost with tears in his eyes, he persuaded the students to disperse, explaining that he could no longer protect them. It was 19 May. Alas, it was already too late: the leaders of the CCP decided to impose martial law and, if necessary, use force to disperse the demonstration. At this point, the students should either disperse, or they would be dispersed by force. Zhao Ziyang did not show the hardness that was required of the Chinese leader at a time when the country was on the verge of chaos. Organized demonstrators were allowed to become insurgents who disobeyed the authorities. If they had not been dealt with harshly, they would have caused similar unrest throughout the vast country. Tiananmen Square is not Trafalgar Square in London. ”
The army is not with the people
Martial law declared 20 May. The scale of mobilization was unprecedented: 30 divisions from five military districts, 14 from 24 army corps of the PLA. Several hundred thousand soldiers began to enter the capital of the country. Most of them were from peasant families, they had never been to Beijing and had no idea what they had to confront and with whom to fight. On the outskirts of the capital, military transport was blocked by crowds of peaceful demonstrators, ordering to immediately retreat or join them. Residents of the suburbs erected barricades. In some areas, the military laid down weapon and sang traditional Maoist songs with the protesters. As a result, government forces retreated to bases outside the city. In such a limbo, the last days of May were held. Student leaders issued an emergency order to set up checkpoints on main streets. Roads were blocked by buses and trolley buses. For a while, the Communist Party completely lost Beijing.
On the first day of June, Premier Li Peng, one of the main party conservatives, issued a circular “On the True Nature of Unrest”, in which he warned that the protest was about to receive nationwide support. The students were directly named in the document as terrorists and counter-revolutionaries. Lee called for Beijing to be taken by force. In the evening of June 3 from TV screens, the announcer asked metropolitan residents to stay at home. In 22: 00, tanks and armored personnel carriers of the People’s Liberation Army drove into the city to "suppress the counter-revolutionary rebellion." The military was allowed to use weapons in self-defense.
"June 4 Massacre"
The next day was remembered in the history of China as the "June 4 massacre." The first to fire on peaceful demonstrators opened the 38 Army on Changan Avenue. It included 15 of thousands of soldiers, tank and artillery units. The troops used expansive bullets, expanding when hit in the body. The 38 Army killed more civilian demonstrators than any other squad that took part in the operation. Soldiers blasted through houses, killing Pekingans who were simply standing on the balconies. Approximately ten kilometers from Tiananmen, armored personnel carriers began to pull away buses that were blocking the way. The activists who formed the living chains were shot. In response, the protesters attacked the soldiers with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails, setting fire to military equipment. Tanks threw pieces of cement. There were reports of the military, burned alive.
Photo: Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images
At half past one in the night, the 38 Army and the 15 Airborne Corps arrived at the northern and southern ends of the square, respectively. By two o'clock, the PLA controlled the Tiananmen perimeter. Most of the demonstrators dispersed throughout the city, but there were still a few thousand students in the square near the monument to folk heroes. The soldiers fired several bursts over the heads of young people. After unsuccessful negotiations, they launched an offensive on all sides to the monument, beating students trying to escape and breaking cameras. Armored cars went to demolish the tents.
At dawn, the operation ended. After a couple of hours, thousands of civilians tried to occupy the square again, but all the approaches blocked the rows of infantry. The approaching crowd shouted that the troops were ready to open fire. The number of victims of the collision remains unknown. Estimates of human rights organizations and participants vary from a few hundred to several thousand students and civilians killed by the military. A few weeks after the suppression of the demonstration, authorities reported that 241 people were killed in the clashes, including 218 civilians, 10 soldiers and 13 policemen, and 7 thousands of people were injured. For the first time since the beginning of the protest, Deng Xiaoping appeared in public with a speech in memory of the “martyrs” - those ten soldiers. According to Amnesty International, one thousand demonstrators were killed. PLA deserter, citing a document distributed among officers, spoke of almost 4 thousands of dead.
The era of "sense of security"
After the change of three generations of the Chinese leadership, public discussion of the dispersal of the demonstration is still banned. The name of Hu Yaobang was tabooed until the 2005 year, when his protege Hu Jintao came to power and rehabilitated his mentor. After that, information about him appeared on the Chinese Internet. This was the only relaxation of Chinese censorship regarding the events on Tiananmen. Today, queries in the Chinese search engines "4 Jun", "Tiananmen Square" and "Zhao Ziyang" do not give results that can be associated with the dispersal of the demonstration.
In early May of this year, the Chinese authorities have tightened security measures in Beijing. To "counteract street violence and terrorism", 150 patrols of nine policemen and four warriors left the streets. The official reason is the opposition to a possible terrorist attack by Uygur separatists, but users of Chinese social networks associate measures with preparations for the anniversary of the protests. Armored cars are now standing on busy streets, which should reinforce the “sense of security” among citizens and intimidate hypothetical terrorists.
In the capital, tightened the procedure for buying gasoline. At gas stations, drivers are obliged to explain why they buy fuel and where they intend to go - according to Renmin Ribao, in order to prevent the use of fuel to "create interference". Each buyer registers the police. Gasoline was one of the weapons of the protesters in 1989. The students soaked them with blankets, which were thrown over the air intakes of the tanks and set on fire. In his memoirs, the Singaporean prime minister wrote that after the suppression of the protest, Chinese Minister of Commerce Hu Ping “drove along Tsanan Road all the way from the Military Museum to the Diaoyutai reception complex and saw the remaining remnants of 15 tanks and armored personnel carriers”.
The bodies of demonstrators killed by the military in Tiananmen Square. Photo: Jeff Widener / AP
The square itself was recently surrounded by a “new brilliant, gilded barrage,” a Washington Post Chinese correspondent writes. According to authorities, this is done to improve traffic safety. In October, the 2013 of the year went on a Tiananmen SUV with Uygur numbers and exploded. Then, in addition to three people who were in the car, two bystanders were killed, 38 were injured. As one official said, the new fence is “extremely shock resistant” - the railing weighs 100 kg and the base 70 kg.
On the eve of the anniversary of the protests, a wave of arrests swept across the country. On May 3, participants in a seminar on Tiananmen events held in Beijing were detained. Among them are two university professors, a dissident writer, the head of an underground Protestant church, and human rights activist Pu Zhiqiang, who participated in 25 protests years ago. Before the round table, they were called by law enforcement officers and strongly recommended that the event be canceled. In total, about 15 people took part in the discussion in a private apartment. A few were placed under house arrest. All detainees who were taken to Beijing detention center No. XXUMX were charged with “inciting unrest”. According to Sophie Richardson, director of the Chinese branch of Human Rights Watch, “these charges and detentions show how little the Chinese government’s attitude to human rights has changed since 1.”
Arrested Pu Zhiqiang at one time represented a Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei, as well as relatives of members of the Communist Party who were detained for bribery and died in custody from torture. Poo's friends called his arrest “the retaliation of the authorities” for his work, designed to sow “panic and horror” among those who intended to take to the streets of 4 in June to commemorate the dead students.
In late April, well-known Chinese 70-year-old journalist Gao Yu was arrested on charges of disclosing state secrets to a certain foreign news site. She also had to take part in a meeting of activists. Gao became famous as one of the most vehement critics of the Chinese government; Deutsche Welle published her columns. After the detention, the Xinhua news agency reported that the journalist allegedly “repent deeply” for her actions and “is ready to accept punishment.” The woman was already imprisoned for six years on the same charge in the early nineties.
Photo: Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images
The raids affected not only the opposition. 8 in May, Beijing police prevented another seminar that was conducted by a gay group. LGBT activists discussed the establishment of a human rights organization that would deal with the rights of Chinese sexual minorities. After interrogation all homosexuals were released. According to the organizers of the event, their detention is “clearly linked” with heightened security measures before the Tiananmen anniversary.
In a conversation with the RP, the sinologist Aleksey Maslov emphasized that the position of the Chinese authorities in relation to the events of 1989 had practically not changed. Unless officially today they are called not “counter-revolution”, but “student unrest”. Activists convicted of participating in them repeatedly appealed, but none was satisfied. In this case, "China does not reconsider its position" - moreover, more and more ordinary Chinese are more likely to approve the suppression of student speeches, Maslov asserts.
“Comparing today with the Ukrainian events, many Chinese understand what the unrest could lead to in China,” says a professor at the HSE.
In China, they are extremely attentive at the everyday level about what is happening in Ukraine, since ordinary Chinese are “terribly frightened” that a civil war can be repeated among them. According to Maslov, who recently returned from a business trip to Beijing and Shanghai, almost any taxi driver today begins a conversation with a discussion of the Ukrainian conflict. Municipal authorities at the level of district and city committees on the eve of the anniversary of the protests began to be reminded of the need to strictly observe discipline.
“In Beijing, you can now see armored vehicles, the number of policemen has sharply increased, authorities constantly remind residents that video cameras are installed on streets, alleys, public buildings and shops (there are about 300 thousands of surveillance cameras in the Chinese capital),” says the orientalist .
The current opposition does not appeal to 1989 student slogans of the year. At that time, young people didn’t have a unified idea of what should be achieved, Maslov said: in the weeks of protest, activists have not formulated any intelligible social demands, except for the need for freedom of speech. Then extraneous adventurers joined the movement, no longer from students, not seeking social justice, but making a political career. The protest itself has degraded over time, the head of the department of oriental studies at HSE believes. “Everything degenerated into a marginal campaign. There are a lot of drunk people on the square, ”recalls Maslov.
Photo: Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images
The demands of today's opposition are well formulated, have an economic and social background - a very tough, “smart and, as a result, much more dangerous” criticism of the government. The current activists are trying to distance themselves as far as possible from the Tianmenmen movement.
“The opposition wants to separate itself from the chaos that was in 1989 year,” the source concluded.
The reasoning of the Moscow Sinologist is not shared by the professor of Beijing Pedagogical University and the IWCA of the RSUH, Li Zhenzhong. According to him, the official position of Beijing is no different from the position of 1989 of the year: the demonstrators are still called anti-revolutionary force, intending to overthrow the communist regime. But most ordinary Chinese believe that the names of the participants in the Tiananmen events must be rehabilitated.
“In principle, if you interview Pekingans, everyone will agree on the political rehabilitation of students. But if we want to rehabilitate these people, we should restore how the bloody events of June 4 took place. The current Chinese government will not do this. It was rumored that Xi Jinping had to rehabilitate them. But this did not happen, ”says the scientist.
A professor from Beijing has no doubt that if the 4 of June the Communist Party did not dare to introduce troops and forceful dispersal of the square, then the protest movement would end in revolution and overthrow Deng Xiaoping, since the army would certainly have joined the students.
“I don’t know how good today's China would be if those bloody events didn’t happen. Perhaps there was no economic development. Perhaps China would fall apart. And yet, I believe that China needs reforms, primarily political ones. And it was then, in the 1989 year, that there were calls for political reform, ”Li concluded.