The Relevance of the Western Left

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Sat Feb 17 06:23:59 MST 2001

[ bounced > 30 kB from "Henry C.K. Liu" <hliu at> and completely
reformatted. Henry, you need help with your emails. Part I]


Beijing Television Service, May 18, 1989; Foreign Broadcast
Information Service, May 19, pp. 14-21. Students' names are from
Renmin Ribao (May 19:1, 4) version in FBIS, May 24, pp. 19-23.

[Video report, captioned "Li Peng and Others Meet Representatives of
the Fasting Students" on meeting between Li Peng, member of the
Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and
premier of the State Council, and fasting students at the Great Hall
of the People "this morning."]

[Unidentified announcer:] Li Peng, member of the Standing Committee of
the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State
Council, and others met with representatives of the students, who have
been fasting at Tiananmen Square, at the Great Hall of the People this

[Video opens with a long shot of Li Peng entering a large conference
room, zooming in to focus on Li Peng shaking hands with each student
as he or she is introduced to Li by an unidentified official carrying
a namelist of the students. Li is seen shaking hands and briefly
chatting with a total of eleven students. Most conversation is
inaudible, except for the sixth and seventh students who are
identified as Wang Dan, wearing a headband, and Wu'er Kaixi, in
hospital pajamas.  Next, camera cuts to show Li Peng, seated on a sofa
and with Li Tieying on his left and Yan Mingfu on his right.]

[Li Peng:] Delighted to meet you. This meeting came a little late.  I
apologize for this. Some of your fellow students are now waiting for
you at the east side of the Great Hall, making me feel as if under
siege [laughing]. I hope that we will have a frank conversation
instead of [indistinct]. I would like to discuss only one topic today
and shelve other topics until some time in the future. The topic I
would like to discuss is how to relieve the fasting comrades of their
predicament as soon as possible. The party and the government are very
much concerned about the students. Therefore, I would like to exchange
views with you mainly on this question, and on how a solution can be
found so that we can discuss other questions. It is not that we do not
want to [indistinct], but that we are mainly [indistinct]. Frankly, I
guess that the oldest of you is about 22 or 23. My youngest child is
even older than you. None of my three children is engaged in official
profiteering. None. They are all older than you. We look at you as if
you were our own children, our own flesh and blood.

[Wu'er Kaixi:] The time is pressing. We can sit down and have a drink
here, but the students are sitting on the cold ground and starving on
the square.  I'm sorry I had to butt in. We hope we can enter into a
substantial dialogue as soon as possible.  Sorry I have to
interrupt. Yes, you are like our elders to us.

[Li Peng:] It does not matter [if you wished to be the elder?] ...

[Wu'er Kaixi:] It certainly does matter. You have just said that this
meeting is a little late. The fact is that we asked for a meeting with
you as early as April 22 at Tiananmen Square. Therefore, this meeting
is not only a little late, but too late.  However, it doesn't matter
because you have already met us [indistinct]. You said we are going to
discuss only one question. In fact, it is not that you asked us to
come here for discussion, but that the great number of people at the
square asked you to come out for a talk. The topics of discussion
should be decided by us.  Fortunately, we share an identical view that
there is only one, just one question that needs to be
discussed. Therefore, let us discuss just this question.  Many
students have already fainted. But this is not my point. What is
impor-tant is to solve the problem. How can the problem be solved? I
think that it is good that you have finally come out and shown your
sincerity to resolve the problem. We read and listened to Comrade Zhao
Ziyang's written statement yesterday and the day before. Why didn't
the students leave? Why did we stay? You should know the reason, I
believe. We regard the written statement as insufficient.  It is not
enough to meet our demands. Moreover, I believe you are aware of the
prevailing atmosphere at the square. If such an atmosphere contin-ues,
then it is likely that there will be no room for discussion
here. Premier Li, it may sound like I am exaggerating a bit. Please
think about this: Should the slightest error occur at the square, or
should a student . . . I do not want to elaborate further. [Wu'er
Kaixi motions to Wang Dan, seated next to Wu'er, to speak.]

[Wang Dan:] [Indistinct] So far, some 2,000 have fainted.
[Indistinct] On the contrary, the students' emotion is rising to a
high level. It is necessary to [indistinct] so that the students will
leave the scene. Moreover, several million people [indistinct] in
order to solve the problem as soon as possible. Therefore, our stand
is clear [indistinct].

[Wu'er Kaixi:] Let me tell you, Teacher Li. First of all, the problem
now lies not in dissuading us -- a handful of student
representatives. We have already stated clearly that you need not
dissuade us because we too wish very much for the students to leave
the square. Second, even if you succeed in utterly rebuking us here,
it is still useless. The situation at the square now is dictated by
99.9 percent of the students who rule over the remaining 0.1
percent. If a student refuses to leave, then thousands of others will
also stay.

[Wang Dan:] [Video shows shots of Wang Dan speaking, then being
interrupted by the arrival of Li Ximing and some college teachers. Li
Peng and others stand up to greet them, shake hands, and introduce
them to those present; one of the teachers walks up to shake hands
with Wu'er Kaixi.] [Indistinct] We have agreed to discuss just one
question: that is, how to persuade the students to leave the square
[indistinct]. I would like to take this opportunity to clearly state
once again our demands. First, the current student movement should be
evaluated as a democratic, patriotic movement and not unrest. Second,

[Wu'er Kaixi:] I would like to add my explanation to the above two
demands. We hope that the verdict will be reversed and that the
editorial will be negated immediately. First, we demand that the
current student movement be given a positive assessment and that the
April 26 Renmin Ribao editorial be negated. So far, no one has
declared that the student movement is not unrest.  Second, we demand
that the actual meaning, or the great significance, of the May 4th
Movement be defined. As for concrete measures to be taken, we suggest
that Comrade Zhao Ziyang or Li Peng -- better if it were Comrade Zhao
Ziyang-- make a speech to the students at the square and not in the
official residence.

Another point: There is another solution to the problem: that is, the
use of the Renmin Ribao editorial. As Minister Li has just said, and
Director Yan has stated before, an immediate solution to the problem,
a resolution of the problem within a very short time, is
impossible. In that case, I have a question: Was the decision to
publish the April 26 editorial made after a very big meeting had been
called? If that was not the case, then I sincerely request that Renmin
Ribao quickly publish an editorial today or tomorrow to negate the one
on April 26, that it offer a full apology to the people of the entire
country, and that it immediately recognize the great significance of
the student movement. Only by so doing, I think, by fulfilling this
point, can we try our best, I mean the Renmin Ribao editorial, to
persuade our fellow students to change their hunger strike to a
sit-in. Only under this condition can we continue to solve the
problem. We will try our best. We dare not guarantee that we will
surely be able to persuade them. But if it cannot be done, then it
will be hard to say what will happen later.

With regard to dialogue, we mean an immediate, open, equal, direct,
and sincere dialogue with the real representatives of the broad masses
of students [indistinct].  Is there any need to go into such trouble?
I can answer for several thousand people who have fainted at the
square: There is such a necessity.  Regarding equality, I think that
leading comrades in real decision-making power should hold a dialogue
with representatives directly elected by the students. This indeed is
the meaning of equality. I think that I must mention one thing. Such
things as saying that I cannot answer this or that question, that this
is only my personal opinion, and so forth, should not occur again in a
dialogue. If problems that have not been discussed at Politburo
meetings are pointed out by us, then a meeting should be called
immediately to study them. This is the attitude that must be adopted
to really solve the problem. This is my view [indistinct].

[Wang Dan:] We can discuss these technical problems he has just raised
later.  Now we, the representatives, have come here while our fellow
students are fainting one after another. In fact we have come here
bearing in mind that we are responsible for their lives. Therefore, we
hope that you leaders, who are present here, will quickly and
explicitly make known your position regarding the demands we have
submitted, I say that you should explicitly make known your position
because the situation is very serious. While we are here as initiators
and organizers, we are worried about the safety of the students. I
think that some individual leaders may think along similar lines. If
they do, then there is a need for quick solution to the problem. It is
not very hard to resolve these two prob-lems.  Do other students have
different opinions?

[Wu'er Kaixi:] I think that if other students have something to add to
these opinions, then they should say so quickly because we do not have
much time left.

[Zhen Songyu, University of Political Science and Law:] I want to say
something, I am one of the representatives of the students who are
participating in the current hunger strike [indistinct]. I have taken
part in the hunger strike directly. I have witnessed our students
being carried away on stretchers, one after another. I think that you
have heard about this. One student after another has been carried away
on a stretcher continually since last night or since the day before
yesterday, or even the day prior to the day before
yesterday. Therefore, I hope that a discussion will be held as quickly
as possible. I have nothing else to say.

[Xiong Yan, Beijing University:] I want to say a few words. We hold
that whether it is recognized by the government or other sectors of
society as a great patriotic democratic movement or not, history will
recognize the current student movement as a great patriotic democratic
movement. But why do students still want the government to
particularly recognize it as a patriotic democratic movement? I think
that their desire is the same -- all want to see whether our own
government is still our own government. In fact, herein lies the
problem. This is the first point.  Second, comrades, we all are
fighting for communism. To save one life is already a job of prime
importance, let alone saving thousands of lives.  Many of our students
have fainted. We are all people of good conscience. We are human
beings.  To solve this problem, we should forget face and other things
of secondary importance. Even if the people's government admits its
own mistakes, the people will still support it. I think that the
masses of people will do so. This is the second point. Third, our
criticism of Premier Li Peng is not directed at you personally. We
criticize you because you are the premier of the Republic. In fact,
you have just said that your coming out is too late. I have nothing
more to say.

[Wu'er Kaixi:] Fellow students, I think that if you have any essential
ques-tions to discuss, you had better discuss them quickly.

[Unidentified student:] Quickly ask the leaders to make their position

[Wang Chaohua, China Academy of Social Sciences:] I agree with what my
fellow student has just said. I just want to add the following: It has
just been said that even if we adopt a resolution here, it is of no
effect if we cannot persuade our fellow students. But the detailed
points expressed by Wu'er Kaixi just now, are not entirely
meaningless. If they can be carried out, then we might be able to
persuade the students to withdraw.

[Wang Xuezhen, secretary of the Party Committee of Beijing
University:] I work at Beijing University. I think I understand the
students of Beijing Univer-sity. As teachers, we are very deeply
distressed when we see the students of Beijing University taking this
kind of action at Tiananmen Square. I believe that our students are
patriotic. They hope to advance democracy in our country. Therefore, I
hold that our students are not trying to create unrest. I hope our
government will affirm this point -- that our students are not engaged
in creating unrest. The second point is that I hope our government
leaders and even our general secretary will go to the square to talk
to the students to show that they understand the students'
feelings. With regard to the matter of official profiteer-ing and
corruption, I think that our government has indicated on many
occasions that it is determined to solve these problems. These
problems must be solved. The government should make up its mind to
solve these problems.  In addition, as a functionary, as a responsible
person of the school, and as a teacher, I also hope that the
government will cooperate with the students and persuade them to
return. If this continues, it will have an adverse effect on the
health of the students. The burden of developing China and of
promoting democ-racy in China in the future all falls on the shoulders
of our young people. It is bad to ruin your health. This is my
three-point view. I hope that you give it consideration.

[Li Peng:] Any other student who wants to ....

[Wang Zhixin, University of Political Science and Law, interrupting:]
If this is put off any longer, not only the students but also citizens
in general will not be able to control themselves. [Video shows Li
Peng nodding his head.] I think that these questions should be
clarified. First, the current movement is no longer simply a student
movement; it has become a democratic movement. The move-ment concerns
the slogan of democracy and science, which was shouted out seventy
years ago. However, this goal has not been achieved in the last
seventy years. Now the slogan is being shouted out once again, with
much more force than it was in the past. Today's situation is this:
since May 13, many students have joined our ranks. This is not
something that the students are in a position to control. I want to
point this out first of all. Besides, we are not obligated to assume
responsibility for maintaining order in the square.

I have another question to ask the government. On April 22, we went
down on our knees for a long time to present our petition. However,
you did not show up despite our repeated request for you to do
so. Another question. We began the hunger strike on May 13, a strike
which now has entered its sixth day. There is a practice in the world
that when a hunger strike enters its seventh day, the govern-ments in
general will respond. This is true even in the case of countries like
South Africa. I wonder if the Communist Party and a great country like
ours can restore and cultivate our original image. One more
question. I wonder how the government is going to respond to this. At
present, different types of people, including aunts, grandpas, and
whole families, have joined our ranks. I wonder what the government
thinks of this. There are people as old as eighty and as young as just
a few years old. Small children formed a line marching in an orderly
way, shouting slogans, and crying: Big brothers, big sisters, drink
some water, eat something.

[Wu'er Kaixi:] Fellow students, fellow students. I feel that we are
almost finished with things of a practical nature. With a sense of
responsibility toward the students in the square, we must try to make
it as brief as possible.

[Li Peng:] Any other student? Since you are here, speak as much as

[Wang Chaohua:] I am sorry, This leading comrade just now...

[Li Peng, interrupting:] He is the secretary of the Party Committee of
Beijing University.

[Wang Chaohua:] Oh, Comrade Wang Lizhi [Xuezhen, sic] How are you?  I
feel that the leading comrades seem to agree with the views expressed
by him, That is, that the vast number of students are not acting to
create disturbances. Am I right?  The leading comrades here seemed to
nod their heads just now.  However, I would like to point out that the
vast number of students are indeed launching a movement. They indeed
are fairly consciously launching a demo-cratic movement, trying to
fight for the rights given to them by the Constitution. I would like
to have this point clarified. If we today call our action simply an
act of ardent patriotism, then there is no way to explain the reason,
coolness, orderli-ness, and observation of law characteristic of the
movement. Many things can be done in the name of ardent patriotism.

[Li Peng:] Is there anyone else?

[Unidentified voice:] No one else. Please go ahead.

[Li Peng:] If there is no one else, I will make this demand. Please do
not interrupt as we speak. We have already fully. . . If you interrupt
when we speak, then it will be difficult for us to continue....

[Yan Mingfu, interrupting:] If you do not have any more questions .
. .

[Li Peng, interrupting:] If you still have questions, then I hope that
you will continue to speak. Since you have this many representatives
here, fully air your views.

[Wu'er Kaixi:] Does this mean that when you finish talking, we can no
longer talk? Is that what you mean?

[Li Peng:] What I mean is that when we are talking, do not interrupt

[Shao Jiang, Beijing University:] Yes, yes. We hope that the current
state of affairs will not become more serious, for China really should
maintain a stable social order to develop itself and to become
prosperous. At this stage, however, the student movement has already
begun to change directly. Perhaps it has be-come a movement of the
whole people. The student movement itself, as the central authorities
have admitted, is relatively reasonable. However, we cannot guarantee
that this movement of the whole people is a reasonable one. Thus, I
would like to ask you gentlemen to calm this situation down as soon as
possible by meeting our two demands.

[Li Peng:] Finished? Li Tieying, you say something about this.

[Li Tieying:] As the minister of the State Education Commission, I
have talked with everyone twice before. I already expressed my views
[on the first issue] the last time; that is, the State Education
Commission from now on will develop more channels for dialogue to
listen to the views of those in the education field, as well as those
of the broad masses of teachers and students, and bear, through you,
the opinions of all sectors of society with regard to our work and
problems. On this issue, we at the State Education Commission were
unable to establish a regular multilevel or multichannel system
through which everyone has the opportunity to speak and to express his
views on state affairs. If we have not done enough in this regard,
then we should sum up our experience.

On the second issue, the student strike has already become a major
nationwide event. We should [make it clear?]. Moreover, the demands of
the students not only involve students, but also include some
political issues.  Therefore, all these issues have created enormous
repercussions. The state of affairs is still developing. This event is
still developing. Therefore, we call the student parades and
demonstrations a student strike. I have already expressed my views on
this issue in two previous official talks with you people. I am sure
that those students who are present here today understand my views
clearly. It should be said that the broad masses of students have
demonstrated the spirit of patriotism, have voiced their criticisms
and opinions, have offered many suggestions, and have expressed their
patriotic aspirations during this event. However, many things do not
develop in a way that accords with our own subjective views and
wishes. The development of such an event in one way or another can
only be verified by the final result of the development itself and by
history. Right now, the state of affairs is spreading. We are quite

[ end Part I ]

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