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A 15 pages term paper on Tiananmen Massacre, 1989


        It was May 4th, 1919 that Chinese students first revolted to urge the Chinese provisional government not to sign the humiliating "Twenty-One Demands" by the Japanese. The foundation for a strong future movement by students in China was laid. In celebrating the 70th anniversary of the success of Chinese scholars in reforming the government, some scholars and students in the Beijing University and other institutions demanded the People's Republic of China to allow more democracy in its political and social structure. Active student like Wang Dan published articles in criticizing the lack of freedom in China that prohibited her from advancing on the road of development. In the meanwhile Chinese were subjected to various hardships of different regimes till Chinese Revolution. In January 1949, troops from China's People's Liberation Army entered Beijing; nine months later, Mao Zedong proclaimed a 'People's Republic' to an audience of some 500,000 citizens in Tiananmen Square. Though it was a gathering place and site of government offices in the imperial days, the world's biggest square - at most times a vast desert of concrete and photo booths - is definitely Mao's creation. Chairman Mao's Memorial Hall, also known as the Mausoleum, where the former leader lies embalmed in a crystal coffin. (Schell, Orville 67 – 93)

Uprising Develops

        Under Mao Zedong, the country was united under certain points: firstly Emphasis on class struggle and the need for uninterrupted revolution, secondly: promotion of mass participation in decision-making and the denigration of intellectuals and experts. Use of movements or campaigns to replace normal economic measures was third and lastly: the emphasis on social equality and normative encouragement that discards material rewards. These principles apparently were left and the population was subjected to brutal Government of the country. The conflict intensified as more than 70,000 Chinese students studying abroad sent home information about the outside world. The influx of 1 million Taiwanese and several million overseas Chinese who visited their homeland in the past several years widened people's horizons. Increasing contact with neighboring Asian countries, coupled with more open debated on political and philosophical issues in the official press, caused people to question the very basis of the Chinese political economic and social systems. The Chinese lived in China began to think about their policy and they wanted to have a change. When the science and democracy had been singled out as two national goals for intellectualist pursue they also wanted to measure the freedom and human rights they enjoyed against the ideals symbolized in the storming of the Bastille in July 1987. In April 15 1989 students in Beijing University had already scheduled a demonstration in Tiananmen Square. They wanted to express their resentment toward the corruption and nepotism of high officials and the lack of progress in political reform and human rights. Government threats and security forces forestalled that demonstration as the political clouds gathered a severe storm seemed imminent.

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Why Rebel?

        The deprivations of the students in China and unfair restrictions on freedom of speech and press contributed towards uprising against the Chinese Government. The participants in the Tiananmen movements were groups of student, workers, intellectuals, and local residents. There were more than one million of people who went on strikes against the armed soldiers and protected the students. Most of them were anonymous hero dedicating their lives in hope of reforming China into a better and more civilized country. The most famous one was the young man who stood in front of a mobilizing tank in attempt to prevent it from entering the Tiananmen Square. (Liu Binyan and Xu Gang 135-183) Protests by students in China began with the death (April 15) of Communist Party chairman Hu Yao-bang (Hu Yoa-pang 1915-89), a liberal reformer who was ousted in 1987 for not halting student demonstrations for democracy and human rights. In Beijing, university students eulogized Hu as a symbol of "modernization" and made peaceful daily marches of protest to Tiananmen Square, where they openly danced and debated over politics and corruption.

        The memorial demonstrations escalated into a pro democracy movement, with protesters demanding the removal of China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other Communist officials. The government’s order to end the demonstrations on April 20 was ignored. On May 4, approximately 100,000 students and workers marched in Beijing demanding democratic reforms. As the crowd mourned for Hu's death, it started asking for the reversal of accusations and verdicts against Hu, which were levied against, him by the Chinese government. They also demanded elimination of corruption and nepotism that was common practice among government officials. They staged sit-in at the gate of the Great Hall of People and later at the entrance of Zhongnanhai, demanding for greater freedom of press, speech, and political participation. The demonstrations in Beijing had been paralleled, on a smaller scale, in some 80 other cities, and the Deng leadership decided that the problem was serious enough to require a nationwide crackdown.

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        There was a wave of arrests of activist students and other actual or suspected dissidents. On May 20 the government declared martial law, however the demonstrations continued while the government wavered between the leadership of Premier Li Peng and General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Eventually choosing the hard-line approach of Li Peng, with the support of Deng, the government ordered troops to Tiananmen Square. On June 3 and 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army brutally crushed pro democracy supporters, killing hundreds of supporters, injuring another 10,000, and arresting hundreds of students and workers. Following the violence, the government conducted widespread arrests, summary trials, and executions; banned the foreign press; and strictly controlled the Chinese press.

        Beginning with the Cultural Revolution youth under the age of 18 had not been allowed to attend an official church, read the Bible, or be baptized in China. The combination of a lack of spiritual values, discontent with the tenets and ideas of the Communist Party, and increasing openness to Western ideas, finally drove youth and workers alike to the streets of Beijing to demonstrate for democracy.

Goals of The Movement

    The goals of the students very clearly emerged once the mourning processions converted into pro democracy movement. The goals included freedom of speech, press, religion and political activities. Beside the students also demanded the change in government.  The students were well organized and peaceful, and their leaders showed true ingenuity by devising a series of ploys designed to maintain enthusiasm and prolong their occupation of the square until some useful result had been achieved. A boycott of classes, a hunger strike, and the unveiling of a statue (the Goddess of Democracy) resembling the Statue of Liberty were used in turn. The demands of the student demonstrators and hunger strikers were, by Western standards, rather modest. They appealed to the government to take measures against corruption. They demanded freedom of the press and the recognition of autonomous student organizations, which, unlike party-controlled student organizations, were deemed illegal. When their appeals proved to be in vain, and when the party newspaperPeople's Daily branded the movement with the very grave charge of conspiracy and inciting to riot, the students demanded the rescission of the Daily editorial and requested a dialogue with the highest officials of the government. The goal of the movement was not to overthrow the communist government but to demand further reform of the politically system and correct they current maladies arising from the economic reform.

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Organizations Supporting the Students

        The movement of 1989 was a singular event, but it was certainly the continuation of the democracy movement of 1986.The political and economic situation in China had further deteriorated. Corruption was widespread in all levels of the government. Officials in the highest ranks of the party hierarchy abused and manipulated import shortages and price systems to build personal fortunes. Inflation fueled the discontent of ordinary citizens, while students and intellectuals were outraged by the repressive policies following Hu's dismissal. The political movement, started immediately after Hu's death, soon caught the overwhelming support of Beijing citizens and spread to other major cities of China.

        Along side the students, the embryo of another movement had emerged, of a very different character and with very different political aims. Among the 100,000 people who assembled in Tiananmen Square on April 22 for Hu Yaobang's funeral were the groups of young industrial workers who on April 20 had founded the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation. The appearance of an independent workers' organization was a matter of great concern for the Chinese government. They directly addressed the class divide that separated the ruling regime and the working class. The potency of these two organizations put strength to the uprising and spread instantly through out the country.

The Leaders?

        The movement was not governed by regular leadership but leadership emerged as the movement grew. Wang Dan, a prominent Chinese dissident who helped lead the Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing, China, in 1989, was released from prison and exiled to the United States where he arrived on April 19, 1998. The 29-year-old Wang was a former Beijing University history student. Wang's release was intended to provide a positive atmosphere for U.S. President Bill Clinton's first visit to China, scheduled for June 1998.Although the government officials during the uprising had met with some of the leaders of the students but no precise concession were made.

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        Another prominent leader was Wei Jingsheng who was released in November 1997 by China. He was pro-democracy advocate. He took active part in organizing large-scale demonstrations and strikes. His role in the movement was very critical and was subjected to immediate check by the government.

        Chai Ling was one of the student leaders who called for hunger strikes to force the government to listen to their pleas. His abilities of leadership were exploited by the political elements and were proving very fruitful.

        Zhao Ziyang was another student leader who is known for his anti government thinking. He was actively involved in the protests and organizing rallies and occupation of Tiananmen Square.

Population’s Views: Then And Today

        Chinese can talk about any thing but politics. A cloud has descended over the country as Government reprisals continue, although they now receive less publicity in the West than immediately after the military crackdown of June 1989.The mass arrests of pro-democracy activists in 1989   have now subsided but police sirens can often be heard in the capital even now if any one is found to be a suspect. Thousands languished in prisons for their part in demonstrations and signing petitions, which called for more openness in Chinese society. Estimates put the numbers executed at over a hundred but it could be a lot more. The true figure may never be known. Many have received long sentences of hard lab our in ‘re-education’ institutions for daring to speak out against oppression and corruption. In the capital, establishments where there is intense pro-democracy activity, such as the prestigious Beijing University are being closely monitored even today.

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        The feeling on the ground is that most people are still not happy over the way the uprising was chandelled. This is what the authorities fear. They remain vigilant over a people they can no longer claim to rule legitimately with a ‘mandate of heaven’. Deng’s death, always an imminent possibility, may be the trigger to spark off more protests and calls for political change. Twelve years have elapsed. The effects of the Communist Party's swindling propaganda and the extent of their lying and smear campaigns are difficult to imagine. It is almost beyond comprehension. It was a tremendous success for the party but the population is waiting for right time for the completion of the political movement, which started in 1989. (Maurice Meisner 35- 87)

        Today the people feel very strong that the consequences of Tiananmen Square will be seen in the form freedom of the people sooner or later. The problems of poverty, over-population, under-development, economic stagnation, lack of resources and capital, mismanagement and corruption have not yet been solved. The conflict between slogan and reality will not disappear. The truth heard all over the world would not be covered by lies. The call for freedom, justice and retribution from the living and the dead will not be silenced. For the aging leaders as well as for the billion people, time and history will not stand still. The movement for democracy in China has been suppressed, but it has not been defeated. In the vision of some, it may have met its anticipated end--a tragic end that is at the same time a new beginning.

     Within months after the June Fourth Massacre, democracy movements were sweeping across the nations of Eastern Europe. Learning the lessons of the Tiananmen massacre, their old-guard leaders submitted to the will of the people. Only the Romanian dictator took the poison of Chinese advice, and paid for the crime with his life. Although the revolution in China has not yet succeeded, it has already inspired giant strides toward democracy and freedom on the other side of the globe. The fallen heroes of Tiananmen Square have not shed their blood in vain.

Why Were The Students Dealt With So Harshly?

        The political movement coupled with popular students uprising was proving difficult for the Chinese Government and the issue was further complicated with the visit of the Soviet leader Gorbachev to Beijing on May 15th. As the crowd gathered in the Tiananmen Square and protested, Gorbachev entered the Great Hall of People from back entrance rather than an official welcome that usually held in the Tiananmen Square. Although no major action was taken during his visit but much was to come later. The government was of the fear that religions effect will further deteriorate country’s economical condition and it would not be feasible for the country to bear the presumed losses. The continuous demonstrations were having adverse effect in the armed forces too therefore it was very important to control and clear the forthcoming troubles. The country could not be weakened politically and culturally. Therefore the movement was crushed with such a harsh way.

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Works Cited

Schell, Orville Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders Touchstone Books September 1995

Liu Binyan and Xu GangBeijing's Unforgettable Spring
Maurice Meisner, The Deng Xiaoping Era: An Inquiry Into The Fate Of Chinese   Socialism 1978-1994

Liu Binyan China's Crisis

 
 


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