The Relevance of the Western Left

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Sat Feb 17 06:24:50 MST 2001

[ Part II from Henry ]

I myself am very worried about what is going on now. Things may
possibly develop in such a way that they will turn out to be
inconsistent with what our fellow students thought and wished in the
beginning. We oppose it, and so do the students and people throughout
the country. Moreover, we all wish to have a stable situation. In
today's China, if we do not have a stable situation, if we do not have
a situation of stability and unity, then, in my opinion, everything
will go down the drain. If there is not a stable situation in the
country, if we cannot continue to establish through the reform a
stability mechanism for a lasting period of peaceful rule, if there is
not a stable and peaceful international situation, then, whatever it
may be, whether it is economic construction, or reform of the economic
and political structure, or any other cause that we are undertaking,
or the four cardinal principles, in short, our wish to invigorate the
Chinese nation, in my view, will remain only a wish or empty talk. So,
we must stay within the confines of the legal system and democracy in
discussing or arguing among ourselves about all problems, no matter
how numerous they are. We have National People's Congress deputies,
don't we? We have the NPC and all kinds of mechanisms, don't we?

If you want to show the greatest love and care for the students who
are at the square now, as well as for all other students, then I think
that they wish we could undertake joint efforts to create, on the
basis of the legal system and gradually in the course of the reform, a
kind of system that will really enable us to realize the goal of
invigorating the Chinese nation. This is our historical mission. It is
also the goal set forth by the Thirteenth CPC Congress for us to
attain in the initial stage of socialism.  Well, the way things are
developing now may not be decided entirely by the subjective wish of
our fellow students, by their fine and warm patriotic
sentiments. Things have already evidenced further developments in
various aspects. Take yester-day, for instance. Parades and
demonstrations at different levels and to varying degrees took place
in about nineteen cities across the country.  There are many students
from various cities who have ridden into Beijing.  Already, not all
the students now at the square are from Beijing alone. There are some
students who have come from other localities. So, we now have a kind
of order, a kind of situation, that is no longer completely in
accordance with our subjective wishes.

As for solving the problems pointed out by our fellow students, we
have already held dialogue and consultations between us several times
now. It seems that the wishes of our fellow students can no longer be
satisfied merely by holding dialogue. Do you not think that we should
now study the most important, the most pressing problem? There is no
problem that we cannot discuss and study. We can solve all problems by
resorting to the means of democracy and the legal system. It is hoped
that our fellow students will keep to reason and think seriously in
order for the students here today to be able to do their work and for
the students at the square to leave and return to their schools as
soon as possible.

[Yan Mingfu:] Let me say a few words. I will speak very briefly. In
the past ten days or so, I have had many contacts with our
students. My primary concern is to save the lives of the students who
have been on a hunger strike at the square for many days. They have
become very weak. The lives of these children are in danger.  I think
the final solution to the problem must be separated from saving lives,
that is, must be apart from the saving of lives. Do not take ...
[changes thought] in particular those students who are not on a hunger
strike, should not take the lives of . . . [changes thought] should
care about the lives of their fellow students who are on a hunger
strike. I believe that the problems will be solved in the end.
However, now we must immediately send these very weakened students to
the hospital. I think that we should reach an agreement on this
problem. Let us solve these two problems separately. As I mentioned to
Wu'er Kaixi and Wang Dan on the night of May 13, the development of
the situation has already over-taken the good intentions of those who
initiated the event, The event has gone beyond the control of the
students. When I went to the square that day to exchange views with
the students, I proposed three things. I said: First, I want you to
immediately leave the square; that is, the students on a hunger strike
should go to the hospital as quickly as possible to receive medical
care. Second, I announced on behalf of the CPC Central Committee --
that is, I was empowered by the CPC Central Committee -- that the
central authorities will absolutely not persecute the students; in
other words, I addressed the problem of later punish-ment raised by
the students.  Third, if the students do not believe me, I offered to
go with the students to their schools before the opening of the NPC
session. After I left the square, I heard that Wang Dan and others
presided over a discussion. Some agreed with my views, but the
majority of the students disagreed. Due to the circumstances, central
leading comrades, who on several occasions have wanted to visit
students at the square, have been unable to enter the square because
of the inability to get in touch with you students. Perhaps you know
about this. Now more and more signs show that [the three organizations
spontaneously set up by] the students are having less and less
influence on the situation. More and more of the masses will not
follow your intention to continue your action. How the situation will
develop worries us. The only thing you can influ-ence is to decide
when the hunger strikers will leave the scene. The CPC Central
Committee and the State Council are sincere and determined to solve
the problems raised by the students. The problem people care about
right now -- and the crux of the matter -- is the lives of these
children. This is one of the most impor-tant issues. Do not take the
lives of these children . . .  [changes thought] not attach high
importance to it . . . [changes thought] someone will have to take
responsibility for the lives of these children.  This is all I want to

[Li Peng:] Will Comrade Xitong say a few words?

[Chen Xitong:] I came to this meeting on short notice, We could not
drive our car over here for this meeting. Finally, we came here by
holding a Red Cross flag. This made me feel that it was very difficult
to come here. This is why I am late. I was the last one to arrive

[Li Ximing:] Eighteen teachers were frustrated. I had to bring them

[Chen Xitong:] Comrade Li Peng wants me to say a few words. I would
like to say something in my capacity as a mayor. The students have
seen the development of events in the last few days. The broad masses
have also seen them.  At present, many people are very concerned about
this. Our workers, peasants, intellectuals, and cadres of various
organs are all very concerned about the events that have
occurred. Many city residents, workers, and peasants, as well as
workers in Xi'an, Hunan, and other localities, have telephoned the
municipal government and Party committee, asking us to convey their
opinions. They hope that the issue can be solved along the track of
democracy and the legal system, as mentioned by Comrade Zhao
Ziyang. This is one opinion. Another point is that traffic throughout
the city is now paralyzed, or is basically paralyzed.  Production has
been seriously affected. Some factory workers have come out in support
of the students, but many workers now hope that the present situation
will not continue but will calm down. Only in this way will it be
possible to better solve the issue. If the traffic in the whole city
remains paralyzed and supply is discon-tinued, there will be a serious
impact on our people and the country. The students are very clearly
aware of this. I have conveyed the opinions people want me to
convey. This is the first thing.

Another thing is the deep concern about the students on a hunger
strike. Medical workers, doctors, and staff members of the Red Cross
are very concerned about the health of those students who are on a
hunger strike. These people request that they be provided with the
greatest cooperation so that they can get assistance in transporting
to the hospital all weak students among the hunger strikers. They
presented a demand to me: The political question is the political
question, but the lives of our children, the students, should not be
played around with or used in exchange for something -- these are
their exact words. Comrades of the Red Cross Society, many other
people in society, and city residents have all expressed this
opinion. I hope that this will be understood by the students.

First and foremost, it is necessary to guarantee the health of our
children and the students of the whole municipality. By holding this
hunger strike, you may adversely affect your health or even sacrifice
your lives. What is the advantage to you? What will you gain by doing
so? In my opinion, if you do not use this method, you can still solve
many problems. Isn't this so? You can solve problems in accordance
with the law and democratic procedures. As mayor, I would like to
convey these two points. I hope that the students will give more
assistance so that the Red Cross Society can fulfill its humanist duty
and responsibility and ensure that not a single student's life is
threatened. The municipal government is determined to provide all the
necessary means to help the students, including provisions against
rain and equipment to protect against cold. We have now made full
preparations for this. Thank you.

[Li Ximing:] I do not have much more to say. Right now, our major task
is to ensure that nobody's life is in danger. Let us unite as one to
tackle this issue first.  This issue brooks no delay. I hope that all
of us will pool our efforts to tackle this issue. There is nothing
else I would like to talk about. This is the most urgent issue.

[Li Peng:] I would like to express my views on several points.
Everyone is interested in discussing essential issues. First I want to
discuss one essential issue.  I propose that the China Red Cross
Society and its chapter in Beijing responsibly and safely send those
on hunger strike to various hospitals. I hope that all other students
at the square would help and support this operation. This is my
concrete proposal. At the same time, I urge the medical workers in
Beijing Municipality and in all units under the central government to
join this rescue operation, care for our students on hunger strike,
save their lives, and ensure their maximum safety. No matter how many
common views we share and how much we differ in views, our primary
task at present is to save lives. This is the government's duty. The
government is responsible for doing this. All the students at the
square must show comradely concern for the students on a hunger
strike. My proposal does not mean that only those comrades on a hunger
strike who are critically ill should be sent to the hospital. What I
mean is that all of them should be sent to the hospital right now. I
have already instructed all major hospitals to vacate more beds and
spare the necessary medical facilities to take care of these students.
During the past few days, our medical workers had al-ready worked very
hard. For days and nights, they had meticulously taken care of fasting
students. Myself, Comrade Ziyang, and other comrades visited some of
the students this morning.

Another point is that neither the government nor the party Central
Committee, has ever said that the broad masses of students are
creating disorder.  We have never said such a thing. We have
unanimously affirmed the patriotic fervor of the students. Their
patriotic aspirations are good. Many of the things they have done are
correct. A considerably large number of their complaints are also
prob-lems that our government seeks to solve. I will tell you in all
honesty that you have played an excellent role in helping us solve
these problems. We plan to solve these problems, but there will
probably be many obstacles. Some of the problems are difficult to
solve. The students have actually helped the govern-ment overcome the
difficulties on our road of advance by pointedly bringing up these
problems.  Therefore, your efforts are positive. Nevertheless, things
often develop independently of your good will, fine ideas, and
patriotic fervor.  No one is able to control this objective law.

There is complete chaos in Beijing. Moreover, chaos has spread
throughout the country. I can tell you students that yesterday our
lifeline, our railway life-line, was blocked for three hours in Wuhan,
suspending our important means of transportation. At present, many
urban students have come to Beijing. Others who are not students but
who are people without fixed duties in society have also come to
Beijing under the banner of students. I can state that during the past
few days, Beijing has been in a state of anarchy. I hope you students
will think for a moment what consequences might have been brought
about by this situation.  The government of the People's Republic of
China is a government responsible to the people. It is impossible for
us to be indifferent to this phenomenon. It is impossible for us not
to protect the safety and lives of students, not to protect factories,
and not to protect our socialist system. Whether or not you are
willing to listen to what I have to say, I am really pleased to have
the opportunity to say it. I want to tell you that it is absolutely
not my intention to impose anything on you, because some things are
independent of man's will. Much unrest has occurred in China. Many
people did not want unrest to occur, but it occurred anyway.

The third point is that currently there are many personnel from
government departments, workers, and even staff members of some of the
State Council departments who have taken to the streets to demonstrate
to show their support. I hope you will not misunderstand their
support. They have done so out of concern for you. They do not want
any harm done to your health. However, I do not totally agree with the
actions taken by many people. In other words, if people advise you to
eat some food and drink some water to maintain your health, or if they
advise you to quickly leave the square and hold a discussion with the
government, then this is entirely correct. However, many people have
come to encourage you to continue your hunger strike. I cannot say
what their motives are, but I do not agree with this action. As head
of a responsible government, I cannot but make my position known
regarding this matter. I have not finished yet. Some . . . [changes
thought] of course, two questions have been raised by students. We are
very concerned about these questions, and we understand them. As the
premier of the government and a member of the Communist Party, I do
not hold back my viewpoints; however, I do not want to talk about
these questions today. I will talk about these questions at an
opportune time, but I think I have already talked quite a lot about my
point of view.

Yes, I have made my point of view clear now. If we insist on endless
quibbling over this issue today, in my view, this is
inappropriate. This is unreasonable. I want to appeal to you for the
last time: if you think that you comrades present at this meeting
cannot, well, either command or -- however you may describe it -- your
partners, if you cannot have complete control over their actions, then
I would like to appeal, through you, directly to our fellow students
on the hunger strike in the square. I hope that they will stop their
hunger strike and go to the hospital for treatment as soon as
possible. Once again, on behalf of the party and the government, I
extend cordial greetings to them. I hope that they will be able to
accept this very simple, but also very pressing, request made to them
by the government. I have finished what I wanted to say.

[Wu'er Kaixi:] Premier Li, I am very sorry for having written you a
note a while ago telling you that in case you do not get to the
essential matters I may have to cut you short. Respecting our
agreement, I did not do so. I would like to remind you about the
question of quibbling about which we have just heard.  In the view of
us students, we are only seeking a solution to the problem from the
standpoint of humanitarianism. As for quibbling, that is about some
specific questions. This has nothing to do with us. It is not us, the
representatives of the students, who are quibbling.  I have another
point to make. I first thought that there was no need to repeat what I
said right at the beginning of this meeting. However, it seems that
some of you leading comrades still do not understand me. Therefore, I
am now willing to repeat what I said once more. The key to solving the
problem now does not lie in convincing those of us present at this
meeting. The key lies in how to make the students leave. The
conditions for them to leave [changes thought] I have, well, I have
already made it very clear just a while ago about the conditions for
them to leave. There is only one possibility, and this is objective
reality, objective fact. If there is even one last person who does not
leave the square and who continues his hunger strike, then it will be
very difficult for us to guarantee that the thousands of people who
choose to remain will leave. Furthermore, with regard to the issue of
the Red Cross, I believe, well, I want to ask Premier Li and other
leading comrades present here to consider its feasibility. Moreover,
Premier Li, let me repeat once again what I have just said. Let us
avoid endless quibbling. We also think this should be avoided. Please
quickly respond to the conditions we have presented, because our
fellow students in the square are suffering from hunger right now. If
this meeting leads nowhere, and if we continue to quibble on this
question, then, in our view, the government does not have any
sincerity, not the slightest sincerity, to solve the problem. In this
case, there is no need for us representatives of the students to
remain sitting here any longer.

[Wang Dan:] Let me add one point. If Premier Li believes that this
will create a disturbance or have a very adverse effect on society,
then I can speak for the vast numbers of students that the government
should take absolute, full responsibility.

[Xiong Yan:] I will repeat once more. Dear Comrade Li Peng, just now
you brought up the point that there are signs of a disturbance in
society. I have spoken for three minutes, explaining in the most
simple way the difference between a student movement and a
disturbance. If a disturbance occurs in a country or a society, does
it have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with a student
demonstration? I say no. A disturbance in a country or society is not
caused by student demonstrations, but by the social system in
existence, the ills of society. It does not have a direct
cause-and-effect relationship with student demonstrations.  The very
purpose of student demonstrations is to expose the ills of society at
an early date so that the government can deal with them and overcome
the ills without delay. Thus, the student movement or the movement to
promote democracy will indeed serve to prevent society from falling
apart and avoid a real disturbance. The argument is quite simple. This
is what I want to say.

[Yan Mingfu:] I would like to ask your view on this. Someone just gave
me a note, saying that the students of the provisional headquarters of
the fasting students are in danger of losing control of the situation
and they hope that you will return immediately. At today's dialogue,
you have presented your views to the party Central Committee and the
State Council. On behalf of the State Council and the party Central
Committee, Comrade Li Peng has expressed our views on these
issues. The most pressing issue that needs to be resolved at present
is to have fasting students go to the hospital for treatment with the
help of the Red Cross.  Regarding other problems, there will be enough
time to resolve them. Shall we end our dialogue here? Comrades of the
provisional headquarters of the fasting students are asking Comrades
Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi to return as soon as possible . . .

[Unidentified student, interrupting:] I want to make one point. At the
beginning it was said that this is a meeting, not a dialogue.

[Li Peng, interrupting:] Yes, it is a meeting. See you again.

[Yan Mingfu:] Premier Li Peng is having talks with a foreign
delegation in the next hour.

[Video shows Li Peng standing up and shaking hands with the students.]

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