During the time prior to the infamous June 4 Massacre in Tiananmen Square China, there were numerous events in which provoked political tension and ultimately stimulated the massacre itself. These events date back to Hu Yaobang’s death followed by the AFS’ seven requests, Deng Xiaoping’s editorial, the student hunger strike, Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to China and the imposed martial law causing the tragic massacre. The Chinese Government, citizens, students, PLA and even some foreign journalists were impacted by these primary incidents to a great extent.
April 15 1989, is the date of Hu Yaobang’s death and historically the day which changed the lives of thousands of Chinese people forever. Hu Yaobang was a progressive man of moderate ideals who was pushing towards the freedom of dialogue and media. Hu was considered a traitor by the CPC as he did not uphold Maoist Ideology; however he was a hero to the majority of students and intellectuals who favoured democratic ideals. Many students, intellectuals and even civilians were greatly impacted as they were discomforted by the lack of respect by the Government who made subdued funeral arrangements.
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So in response, 200,000 students had defied a ban to carry out a demonstration of mourning for Yaobang. In addition, they had delivered a petition to the Premier of the Politburo Standing Committee, Li Peng and demanded that the Government reassess his legacy. After such a successful demonstration at Yaobang’s mourning which was not acted against by the Government, many students became aware of the potential of their large mass and its capabilities, and hence the death of Hu Yaobang was respectively the spark of a fire for the many Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 which would soon have a large-scale impact on the whole of China. The senior comrades are getting worried. “1 The student demonstrations had a minor impact on the CPC as they became somewhat concerned, not wanting them to escalate into anything bigger or continue on for any longer. The Autonomous Federation of Students was quickly growing in population as many students joined by their own will. The AFS had seven imperative requests: re-evaluate Hu Yaobang’s achievements and mistakes, completely denounce the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign and the Anti Bourgeois Liberalisation Campaign, allow free press and freedom of speech, disclose he income of the leaders and their families, cancel the ten 1987 Beijing Municipal Regulations against demonstrations, increase spending for education and improve living standards for intellectuals, and lastly to truthfully report the memorial activities. These requests were often demanded and chanted at the student demonstrations that were growing in size and frequency, up until the June 4 Massacre. The CPC were impacted exceedingly by these ongoing demonstrations as Xiaoping had described the protesters as, “picking up the bowl to eat meat, and putting it down to curse their Mother. 2 During the non-violent demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of people in the square screamed out, “Deng Xiaoping retire! “3 Again, the Government were increasingly impacted as they harshly replied with, “We are dealing with the dregs of society and a gang of rebels who want to subvert our country. “4 The demonstrations and the initial seven requests were evidently impacting drastically on the Government and the students, but what about the civilians? Workers out on the streets… transportation out of whack. “5 Of course civilians also were affected by these events as stated by Shangkun; even the public transport was out of order. Deng Xiaoping strongly believed that the student demonstrations, “threatened to throw China into political turmoil. “6 as he repetitiously highlighted this in the April 26 editorial condemning the Tiananmen Square protesters. The harsh words of the editorial had classified the student movement as a planned conspiracy.
Xiaoping’s editorial itself, was a result of the previous event, being the students 7 requests and their demonstrations, as the editorial evidently shows how the Government had been impacted. Xiaoping’s propaganda featured twisted information and insulting statements directed towards the student’s well-organised demonstrations including, “People seeking to overthrow the Communist Party,” 7 and “…deliberately fabricated rumors. “8 The impact of the student demonstrations clearly triggered Xiaoping’s editorial as he retaliated fiercely by suppressing the Chinese student opinions.
The demeaning editorial only worsened the situation for the CPC with a chain-reaction affect as the students and civilians were shocked and in due course, more motivated to raise the bar with their demonstrations as they than demanded the recalling of the editorial. “Demonstrators on the streets on April 27 had swelled to 10 thousand. “9 There is no doubt that the editorial, released only a day earlier, had been the cause for such figures as Xiaoping’s lies had a paramount impact on literally thousands of students and civilians. Many people were highly displeased, including those in government departments. “10It is now obvious that the people of China were highly distressed by the editorial as well as lower ranked citizens within the government, who were negatively impacted by their own editorial. So in the closing stages, the students, civilians, and even several government employees were impacted by Deng Xiaoping’s April 26 editorial. The Autonomous Federation of Students perceived China to be in crisis with inflation, abuses of power, corruption and deterioration in law and order.
As cited previously, a chain reaction of events had occurred leading up to the massacre as the April 26 editorial had impacted on the students ever so greatly, that they had proposed a hunger strike in response. In the manifesto for a hunger strike, the AFS had stated their legitimate reasons for the hunger strike which featured, “protest the government’s labelling our patriotic democratic student movement as ‘turmoil’ and many distorted press reports. 11 So in fact, the infamous student hunger strike in Tiananmen Square was majorly stimulated by the ruthless words of Deng Xiaoping’s editorial. “Students called for Deng to take back what he said,”12 Again evidence suggests that the hunger strike was triggered by the CPC. At 2 P. M on May 13, a mass hunger strike consisting of predominately young, innocent youth had begun. The students chose to abandon their lives in order for a brighter future for their country, and for other democratic agencies to recognise them and support them in any means possible. We have no choice but to abandon the beauty of life. “13 In addition, the intellectuals of Beijing published a declaration three days into the hunger strike, known as the May 16 Declaration. The intellectuals reinforced their full support of the AFS and their hunger strike, “This is a great, historic turning point that will determine the fate of China,”14 however, it made little impact on neither the students nor the Government who were in full apprehension of the incidents of the Hunger strike. The Hunger Strike had sweeping impacts on the whole of China.
Firstly, it had obvious impacts on the students attending at the Hunger strike as many passed away and thousands suffered in critical conditions. As the hunger strike escalated, it is said that there were over 100 000 students and civilians actively present in and around Tiananmen Square, even business mangers were sending their workers to Tiananmen. Secondly, the Hunger strike had a vast impact on the Government as all eyes were on them, enforcing them to make decisions and resolve the over-powering confliction with the AFS. “Get things settled down as soon as possible. 15 The pressures of the hunger strike were that great, that the General Secretary Zhao Ziyang had made an appearance at the Tiananmen Square and gave an emotional speech urging the students to quit their life-threatening demonstration and stay healthy. And lastly, the hunger strike had an immediate impact on many civilians and residents of Beijing as, “the students had won the hearts of many of the civilians. “16 Many civilians of which supported the hunger strike by providing first aid and care of the struggling hunger strikers. Not only did the civilians offer support, many joined the hunger strike, “All kinds of community groups joined. 17 The devastating impacts of the hunger strike lingered on to provoke the event of Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to China. “We are having a historic Sino-Soviet summit. “18 With Gorbachev’s visit on the verge, and 100 000 protester’s with banners and posters all objecting the CPC and promoting democracy, a huge load of stress was placed on the Government as they desperately needed to clear the square for special ceremonies to take place. The CPC had failed in clearing the Square before Gorbachev’s touchdown in Beijing so the CPC embarrassingly had to perform their welcoming ceremony at the airport, rather than at the Tiananmen Square.
This significant incident had a downbeat impact on the CPC as their fury grew within and were soon reaching boiling point. For the entire three days of Gorbachev’s visit, the students and civilians in Beijing advocated complete humiliation as they controlled the Tiananmen Square and entirely ruined the superior Gorbachev’s visit. The AFS had tasted their first real success. Not only were the Government impacted horrendously by the incidents of Gorbachev’s visit, as many Police could feel the tension and pressure of which the students were delivering in the Tiananmen Square. “Police have been on duty continuously…and are exhausted. 19 On the other hand, the students and civilians who were involved in the demonstrations at Gorbachev’s presence were impacted in an encouraging way as they felt much accomplished. Lastly, the June 4 massacre itself had a staggering impact on the students, CPC, civilians, PLA and foreign journalists as it is a moment in history that will never be forgotten. Martial law had officially been imposed on May 20, however the massacre of the students held out until the evening of June 3, when thousands of soldiers, tanks and artillery completely demoralised the innocent lives of thousand’s of initially peaceful demonstrators. The only enemy I can see them firing at is the people in the street,”20 stated a foreign journalist who was impacted on by the imposition of martial law as he was forced to return to his hotel for the safety of his life. Euphemistically known as the Government Crackdown, the massacre of the students continued on through the night of June 3 and the early hours of June 4, leaving the concrete pavements stained with blood and the roads resembling bombshells and carnage. “We are all going insane! 21 No better description can be used to delineate the impact of the massacre at the present time in the square on the students as they were running for their lives, in complete shock, fighting back, lay wounded or dead on the ground, or as cited, going insane. As well as the students, hundreds of innocent civilians were caught out and trapped in the square, not able to escape the obliteration of the soldiers’ machine guns. Many hid behind trees and were mistaken for ‘ruffians’ who were repelling the PLA. These are devastating impacts protruding from the June 4 massacre on the students and civilians.
In addition, many intellectuals lost their complete trust in the Government as the events of the massacre unfolded. “Whatever trust I had in the Government went up in smoke with the gunfire. “22 Contrawise, many soldiers of the PLA were highly impacted by the massacre as many suffered from guilt, trauma and regret when slaughtering hundreds of innocent students and civilians. “The PLA has suffered a great deal. “23 The massacre had also made an immense effect on the CPC as they became ruthless, violent and cut-throat with their decisions regarding the massacre. All means necessary,’ was the term repetitiously used over the loudspeakers in the square and specifically by Deng Xiaoping in his final orders for the acquisition of martial law in Tiananmen Square. In conclusion, all the events and incidents addressed above had heavy impacts on the students, civilians, CPC, PLA and foreign journalists as they contributed a great deal to the cause of the June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square. End Notes: 1. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link 2. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 1, Liu Binyan, edited by Kelly Barth 3.
The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 1, Liu Binyan, edited by Kelly Barth 4. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 1, Liu Binyan, edited by Kelly Barth 5. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link 6. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 3, Deng Xiaoping, edited by Kelly Barth 7. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 3, Deng Xiaoping, edited by Kelly Barth 8. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 3, Deng Xiaoping, edited by Kelly Barth 9. Zhao Yiyang. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang edited by Bao Pu 10.
Zhao Yiyang. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang edited by Bao Pu 11. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 4, Autonomous Federation of Students, edited by Kelly Barth 12. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 4, Autonomous Federation of Students, edited by Kelly Barth 13. The Tiananmen Square Massacre ??? chapter 4, Autonomous Federation of Students, edited by Kelly Barth 14. The May 16 Declaration ??? Author unknown (intellectuals) 15. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link 16.
Gorbachev visits China ??? Author unknown 17. Gorbachev visits China ??? Author unknown 18. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link 19. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link 20. Harrison E Salisbury, Tiananmen Diary- Thirteen days in June 21. A Beijing doctor in Children of the Dragon: The story of Tiananmen edited by Human Rights in China 22. A Capital steal mill worker in Children of the Dragon: The story of Tiananmen edited by Human Rights in China 23. The Tiananmen Papers edited by A. Nathan and P. Link