The Relevance of the Western Left

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at SPAMmindspring.com
Fri Feb 16 22:51:05 MST 2001




        PARTIAL CHRONOLOGY FOR THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE


     PART ONE: PRE-1989

     1919

          Beginning on May 4th, college students staged a series of
          demonstrations to protest the terms of the Versailles Treaty,
which ceded
          German territories in China to Japan rather than returning
them to China
          after World War I. These demonstrations inaugurated a new
phase of
          national consciousness in China, and the term "May 4th
Movement"
          came to symbolize the spirit of patriotism among youths. In
modern
          Chinese history, the term "May 4th Period" signifies an era of
intense
          intellectual debate concerning the roles of traditional
Chinese culture,
          modern science, and Western style democracy.

     1949

          Atop Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) on October 1, Mao
Zedong
          proclaims the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

     1966-76

          A ten-year period which Mao calls "the Cultural Revolution."
Since
          Mao's death, it has often been referred to as "the ten years
of turmoil."
          The period is characterized by power struggles among the
Chinese
          leadership, by the rise of "Red Guards" and "revolutionary
rebels" among
          the populous, and by extensive political persecutions
involving all
          sectors of Chinese society. Deng Xiaoping and many other high
ranking
          leaders fall from power.

     1976

          Premier Zhou Enlai dies on January 8. In April, thousands of
people
          gather in Tiananmen Square to commemorate him and criticize
Mao's
          closest associates. Clashes between mourners and police result
in the
          "Tiananmen Incident," which the government brands as a
          counter-revolutionary event.

          Mao Zedong dies on September 9. On October 6, Mao's four
closest
          associates--including his wife, Jiang Qing--are arrested. Deng
gradually
          rises to power once more, and the official verdict of the
"Tiananmen
          Incident" is overturned.

     1978

          Deng Xiaoping launches economic reforms and proclaims the
"Four
          Modernizations," in industry, agriculture, science and
defense.

          A stretch of construction wall near a busy commercial district
in Beijing
          attracts nation-wide attention as the "Democracy Wall," a
place where
          people put up posters to voice their criticism of the
political system.

     1979

          On January 1, the United States and the People's Republic of
China
          formally establish diplomatic relations.
          Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping arrives in the U.S. on January 28,
the first
          official visit ever by a senior Chinese Communist leader.

          The government suppresses the "Democracy Wall" and arrests
several
          activists, the most famous among them being Wei Jingsheng. Wei
is
          sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

     1981

          In June, Hu Yaobang is appointed as the Party General
Secretary.

     1986

          In late fall, college students in several cities stage
demonstrations to
          demand political reform.

     1987

          In January, Hu Yaobang is accused of being soft on the student
protests
          and on "bourgeois liberalism," and is forced to resign. Later,
Zhao
          Ziyang becomes the General Secretary of the Communist Party,
and Li
          Peng the Premier.

     1988

          The Central Committee endorses Premier Li Peng's policy to
slow the
          pace of economic reforms, a setback for Zhao Ziyang.


     PART TWO: 1989

     April 15

          Former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, deposed in 1987,
dies of a
          massive heart attack. People began to gather in Tiananmen
Square to
          commemorate Hu and voice their discontents.

     April 22

          The official memorial service for Hu Yaobang is held in the
Great Hall
          of the People. Demanding to meet with Premier Li Peng, three
student
          representatives carry a petition and kneel on the steps of the
Great Hall in
          front of the 100,000 students who have gathered in the Square
the night
          before. Li Peng does not respond, and the students refuse to
let minor
          officials pass on the petition. Angered by official apathy,
students begin
          boycotting classes.

     April 26

          The Communist Party newspaper People's Daily publishes an
editorial
          accusing a "small handful of plotters" of stirring up student
unrest and
          creating turmoil in order to overthrow the Communist Party and
the
          socialist system.

     April 27

          Ignoring warnings of violent suppression, students from more
than 40
          universities march to Tiananmen in protest of the April 26th
editorial.

     May 4

          Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, in a meeting with foreign
bankers,
          makes a speech which in essence contradicts the April 26th
People's
          Daily editorial.

     May 13

          Several hundred students begin a hunger strike at Tiananmen
Square in
          the afternoon.

     May 14

          Second day of hunger strike. In the afternoon, elected student

          representatives charged with the responsibility for dialogue
with the
          government begin formal talks with the government. The talks
breaks
          down because the promised broadcast does not materialize. In
the early
          evening, twelve of China's most famous writers and scholars
present
          their emergency appeals at the Square, calling on the
government to
          acknowledge the movement as a patriotic democracy movement and

          calling on the students to end their hunger strike. Their
efforts fail.

     May 15

          Third day of hunger strike. Gorbachev arrives in Beijing for
the first
          Sino-Soviet summit since 1959. The government cancels plans to

          welcome Gorbachev at Tiananmen Square.

     May 18

          Sixth day of hunger strike. Li Peng summons several student
leaders for
          a televised talk at the Great Hall of the People. Nothing is
achieved.
          [Full transcript of this televised meeting available.] The
government
          prepares to declare martial law.

     May 19

          Seventh day of hunger strike. The government's plan for
martial law is
          leaked to student leaders, who call off the hunger strike and
declare a
          mass sit-in.
          The Independent Workers Union (IWU) is founded at Tiananmen
Square.

          In an evening speech, Premier Li Peng calls for "firm and
resolute
          measures to end the turmoil swiftly." [Full text of speech
available.]

     May 20

          The government formally declares martial law in Beijing, but
the army's
          advance towards the city is blocked by large numbers of
students and
          citizens.

     May 23

          The troops pull back to the outskirts of Beijing.

          The Alliance to Protect the Constitution is set up in order to
coordinate
          the actions of the various groups involved in the movement.

     May 24

          The Defend Tiananmen Square Headquarters is set up. Chai Ling
is
          named Commander-in-Chief.

     May 27

          The Alliance to Protect the Constitution decides by a
unanimous vote to
          recommend that the students end their occupation of the Square
on May
          30th. The resolution is announced at a press conference in the
Square.

     May 28

          The Defend Tiananmen Square Headquarters rejects the May 27th
          resolution to end the occupation of Tiananmen Square.

          [Read an account of the above events in Black Hands of
Beijing, by
          George Black and Robin Munro.]

          Chai Ling gives a long interview to Philip Cunningham, an
American
          journalist. A transcript of the complete interview in its
original Chinese
          is available.

     May 30

          The ten-meter-high Goddess of Democracy is unveiled. [Read
more
          about the Goddess in Wu Hung's "Tiananmen Square: A Political
          History of Monuments" in Representations 35, Summer 1991.]

     June 2

          At 5:00 pm, Liu Xiaobo, Hou Dejian, Zhou Duo and Gao Xin start
a
          hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.

     June 3

          Troops receive orders to reclaim Tiananmen Square at all cost.
Around
          10:00 pm, soldiers open fire on people who try to block the
army's
          advance, as well as on those who are simply shouting at the
troops.
          Tanks and armored personnel carriers move toward the center of
the city.
          Many people in the streets are killed or wounded, including
bystanders.

     June 4

          Around 1:00 am, troops surround Tiananmen Square and await
further
          orders.

          Around 4:00 am, the four men who began a hunger strike on June
2
          negotiate with the troops to allow the students to leave the
Square.

          Around 5:00 am, several thousand students, and their teachers
and
          supporters leave the Square at gunpoint.

          [Read a detailed account of the night of June 3-4 in Black
Hands of
          Beijing, by George Black and Robin Munro.]

     June 9

          Deng Xiaoping, in a nationally broadcast television
appearance, speaks to
          the commanders of the martial-law units. [Full transcript of
his speech
          available.]



     Additional readings:

          The Gate of Heavenly Peace focuses on the events of April-June
1989
          as they occurred in Beijing. The protests that spring,
however, were not
          isolated to the capital; while time did not allow the film to
examine
          events in other cities, additional readings on this topic are
available on
          this site. See The Pro-Democracy Protests in China, edited by
Jonathan
          Unger.








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