US embassy cable - 89BEIJING10642

PRO-DEMOCRACY DEMONSTRATORS FLOOD TIANANMEN SQUARE IN SECOND NIGHT OF DEMONSTRATIONS

Identifier: 89BEIJING10642
Wikileaks: View 89BEIJING10642 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beijing
Created: 1989-04-19 08:21:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM SOCI CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 190821Z APR 89
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 6174
INFO AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY
AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY
AIT TAIPEI PRIORITY
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
AMCONSUL SHENYANG
AMCONSUL CHENGDU POUCH)
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIJING 10642 
 
NIACT IMMEDIATE FOR OPS CENTER ONLY 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, CH 
SUBJECT:  PRO-DEMOCRACY DEMONSTRATORS FLOOD TIANANMEN 
SQUARE IN SECOND NIGHT OF DEMONSTRATIONS 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS FROM BEIJING 
UNIVERSITIES FLOODED TIANANMEN SQUARE IN CENTRAL 
BEIJING FOR A SECOND NIGHT ON APRIL 18.  THEY CROWDED 
AROUND THE BASE OF THE MARTYRS MONUMENT AT THE CENTER 
OF THE SQUARE CHANTING PRO-DEMOCRACY SLOGANS AND 
SINGING PATRIOTIC SONGS.  TEN TO FIFTEEN THOUSAND 
PEACEFUL BUT SYMPATHETIC ONLOOKERS SURROUNDED THE 
CORE OF STUDENT DEMONSTRATORS.  LATE IN THE EVENING 
BETWEEN TWO AND THREE THOUSAND STUDENTS MARCHED TO 
THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND SEVERAL BLOCKS 
FROM THE SQUARE AND SAT AT THE GATE.  ALTHOUGH POLOFF 
AT THE SQUARE WITNESSED NO VIOLENCE, THE XINHUA NEWS 
AGENCY REPORTED ON APRIL 19 THAT A POLICE OFFICER 
SUSTAINED A MINOR INJURY WHEN A SMALL NUMBER OF 
STUDENTS ATTEMPTED TO FORCE THEIR WAY INTO 
ZHONGNANHAI IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS. 
DEMONSTRATORS AT ZHONGNANHAI REPORTEDLY DISPERSED 
BETWEEN 4:00 AM AND 5:00 AM ON THE MORNING OF 
APRIL 19.  NO ARRESTS HAVE BEEN REPORTED. 
 
3.  LAST NIGHT'S DEMONSTRATION WAS AMONG THE LARGEST 
UNOFFICIAL GATHERINGS AT THE SQUARE SINCE HUNDREDS OF 
THOUSANDS OF BEIJINGERS FLOODED TIANANMEN TO 
COMMEMORATE THE DEATH OF ZHOU ENLAI AND PROTEST THE 
GANG OF FOUR IN APRIL, 1976.  TIANANMEN WAS ALSO THE 
SCENE OF PRO-DEMOCRACY STUDENT GATHERINGS IN LATE 
1985 AND LATE 1986.  A STUDENT ATTEMPT TO DEMONSTRATE 
THERE FIZZLED IN MID-1988.  THIS TIME STUDENTS 
APPEARED BETTER ORGANIZED THAN IN THE PAST, AS 
EVIDENCED BY THE PREVALENCE OF STUDENTS WEARING DARK 
MOURNING CLOTHES, COORDINATION OF THE ZHONGNANHAI 
MARCH, AND SLOGANS APPARENTLY AGREED UPON IN ADVANCE. 
 
4.  THE DEATH OF POLITBURO MEMBER AND OUSTED PARTY 
SECRETARY GENERAL HU YAOBANG PROVIDED DISCONTENTED 
STUDENTS WITH A CONVENIENT PRETEXT FOR DEMONSTRATING. 
THAT STUDENTS WERE ALLOWED TO GATHER AT THEIR 
UNIVERSITIES TO ORGANIZE THE DEMONSTRATION AS WELL AS 
THE SURPRISINGLY LIGHT POLICE PRESENCE AT TIANANMEN 
SUGGEST THAT THE AUTHORITIES WILL TOLERATE STUDENT 
SENTIMENT FOR THE MOMENT.  AN OFFICIAL MOURNING 
CEREMONY FOR HU YAOBANG IS SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 22. 
AUTHORITIES MAY WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE CEREMONY BEFORE 
MOVING TO STOP THE DEMONSTRATIONS.  LIKE ITS 
PREDECESSORS, THIS OUTPOURING MAY VERY WELL INTENSIFY 
PRESENT LEADERSHIP DEBATES OVER POLICY AND PERSONNEL 
ISSUES.  END SUMMARY. 
 
THE CROWD AT TIANANMEN 
---------------------- 
5.  THE APRIL 15 DEATH OF FORMER PARTY GENERAL 
SECRETARY HU YAOBANG CONTINUES GENERATE STUDENT 
ACTIVITY ON BEIJING CAMPUSES AND AT TIANANMEN 
SQUARE.  ON APRIL 18, A CORE CADRE OF STUDENTS SPENT 
THE ENTIRE DAY AT THE MARTYRS MONUMENT, A TALL STELA 
AT THE HEART OF TIANANMEN SQUARE.  THEY WERE JOINED 
IN THE EARLY EVENING BY OTHER STUDENTS FROMBEIJING, 
QINGHUA, AND PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITIES.  POLOFF PRESENT 
AT TIANANMEN ALSO SAW STUDENTS FROM THE BEIJING 
ENGINEERING UNIVERSITY ARRIVE AT THE SQUARE AT ABOUT 
9:00 PM.  AT 9:30 PM STUDENTS THAT HAD PACKED 
SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER AT THE BASE OF THE MONUMENT 
NUMBERED BETWEEN TWO AND THREE THOUSAND 
PEOPLE.  A PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY STUDENT TOLD POLOFF 
THAT THE STUDENTS FROM HIS SCHOOL ALONE NUMBERED OVER 
700. 
 
6.  MOST DEMONSTRATORS AT THE MONUMENT WORE DARK 
CLOTHES OF MOURNING.  THEY CHANTED SUCH SLOGANS AS 
"LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY" AND "OPPOSE OFFICIAL 
CORRUPTION."  AT ONE POINT STUDENTS WHO HAD CLIMBED 
THE MONUMENT'S PEDIMENT RAISED A BANNER STATING 
"OVERTHROW AUTOCRATIC BUREAUCRACY."  AT THE CENTER OF 
THE MONUMENT FLEW A THIRTY FOOT BANNER RAISED BY 
BEIJING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WHICH STATED "ALWAYS 
REMEMBER COMRADE HU YAOBANG."  AT THE BANNER'S CENTER 
STUDENTS HAD PAINTED THREE LARGE CHARACTERS FOR THE 
PHRASE "CHINA'S SPIRIT" (ZHONGGUO HUN). 
DEMONSTRATORS ALSO ENTHUSIASTICALLY SANG PATRIOTIC 
SONGS SUCH AS THE "INTERNATIONALE." 
 
7.  BETWEEN 10 AND 15 THOUSAND CURIOUS BEIJINGERS OF 
ALL AGES AND ALL OCCUPATIONS THRONGED THE SQUARE 
SURROUNDING THE STELA.  THE ONLOOKERS WERE PEACEFUL 
BUT APPEARED LARGELY SYMPATHETIC TO THE STUDENTS. 
THEY CHEERED EACH TIME A STUDENT CLIMBED THE 
MONUMENT'S HIGH PEDIMENT TO PLACE A MOURNING WREATH 
OR A BANNER.  ON OCCASION, A LARGE NUMBER OF THE 
ONLOOKERS CLAPPED OR SHOUTED IN APPROVAL OF THE 
PRO-DEMOCRACY SLOGANS CHANTED BY THE DEMONSTRATORS. 
SMALL GROUPS OF YOUTHS AND OTHERS GATHERED IN TIGHT 
HUDDLES AROUND THE SQUARE TO DISCUSS POLITICS. 
POLOFF WITNESSED A CROWD GATHER SPONTANEOUSLY AROUND 
A MIDDLE AGED MAN WHO BEGAN TO DISCUSS WITH HIS 
FRIEND THE PROS AND CONS OF THE STUDENTS' ACTIONS. 
 
THE MARCH TO ZHONGNANHAI 
------------------------ 
8.  AT 9:45 PM A CROWD OF BETWEEN 500 TO ONE THOUSAND 
DEMONSTRATORS CARRYING A WREATH DESCENDED FROM THE 
BASE OF THE MONUMENT AND PROCEEDED NORTH THROUGH THE 
SQUARE TO CHANGAN AVENUE, BEIJING'S MAIN 
THOROUGHFARE.  FOLLOWED BY A HUGE NUMBER OF 
ONLOOKERS, THEY TURNED TO MEET A PARADE OF BETWEEN 
ONE AND TWO THOUSAND STUDENTS WHO HAD JUST ARRIVED 
AT THE SQUARE FROM THE UNIVERSITY DISTRICT IN BEIJING'S 
NORTHWEST SUBURBS, A TWO TO THREE HOUR MARCH AWAY. 
THE MARCHERS, WHO APPEARED TO HAIL MOSTLY FROM BEIJING 
AND QINGHUA UNIVERSITIES, CARRIED ANOTHER WREATH AND 
A LARGE PRO-DEMOCRACY BANNER.  THE COMBINED CROWD 
MARCHED ONCE AROUND THE PERIMETER OF THE SQUARE AND 
HEADED FOR THE XINHUA GATE, THE SOUTH ENTRANCE TO THE 
ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND.  (NOTE: A WESTERN 
REPORTER ESTIMATED THE SIZE OF THE MARCH AT 4 
THOUSAND PEOPLE, BUT THIS IS ON THE HIGH END OF THE 
SCALE.  TWO TO THREE THOUSAND SEEMS MORE LIKE IT. 
END NOTE.) 
 
9.  REACHING ZHONGNANHAI AT ABOUT 10:45 PM, THE LEAD 
MARCHERS PLACED TWO OR THREE WREATHS HONORING HU 
YAOBANG BEFORE THE DOORS OF THE GATE.  THEY THEN SAT 
DOWN TO CHANT SLOGANS AND SING.  SEVERAL THOUSAND 
ONLOOKERS CROWDED THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE AVENUE AS 
LATE NIGHT TRAFFIC IN THE AREA GROUND TO A HALT.  AS 
OF POLOFF'S DEPARTURE FROM THE SCENE AT 11:45 PM, THE 
CROWD AT THE GATE HAD CONFINED ITSELF TO VERBAL 
DISPLAYS OF ITS SYMPATHIES.  HOWEVER, AN APRIL 19 NEW 
CHINA NEWS AGENCY (XINHUA) RELEASE REPORTED THAT AT 
12:20 AM "A SMALL NUMBER OF PEOPLE" HOLDING WREATHS 
WERE STOPPED BY GUARDS AS THEY ATTEMPTED TO ENTER THE 
GATE.  THERE WERE THREE SUCH ATTEMPTS, ACCORDING TO 
THE ARTICLE.  THE STORY ALSO STATED THAT ONE GUARD 
WAS LIGHTLY INJURED WHEN SOME DEMONSTRATORS BEGAN 
THROWING BOTTLES AND SHOES. 
 
10.  AT 4:20 AM ON WEDNESDAY, LOUDSPEAKERS IN THE 
AREA BROADCAST A BEIJING CITY GOVERNMENT NOTICE 
URGING MARCHERS TO RETURN HOME, ACCORDING TO THE 
XINHUA STORY.  THE ARTICLE QUOTES THE NOTICE AS 
STATING THAT "IT IS ILLEGAL AND IMPERMISSIBLE TO 
BREAK INTO PARTY AND GOVERNMENT ORGANS."  THE ARTICLE 
REPORTED THAT BETWEEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT AND ABOUT 
5:00 AM, THE CROWD DISPERSED AND ORDER IN THE AREA 
HAD BEEN RESTORED.  WE BELIEVE THAT A CORE GROUP OF 
STUDENTS REMAINED AT THE MONUMENT THROUGHOUT THE 
NIGHT.  WE HAVE JUST HEARD REPORTS THAT AS OF MID-DAY 
APRIL 19, SEVERAL THOUSAND STUDENTS REMAIN IN 
TIANANMEN. 
 
POLICE PRESENCE DISCREET 
------------------------ 
11.  SURPRISINGLY, UNIFORMED POLICE WERE ALMOST 
ENTIRELY ABSENT FROM TIANANMEN SQUARE ITSELF 
THROUGHOUT THE EVENING'S FESTIVITIES.  HOWEVER, 
JUDGING FROM THE NUMBER OF OFFICIAL VEHICLES PARKED 
IN FRONT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MUSEUM WHICH FLANKS THE 
EAST SIDE OF THE SQUARE, A LARGE CONTINGENT OF PUBLIC 
SECURITY OFFICERS MAY HAVE GARRISONED THE MUSEUM'S 
SPACIOUS INTERIOR COURTYARD.  UNARMED POLICE ON THE 
STREETS SURROUNDING TIANANMEN SQUARE MAINTAINED A 
FORCE LEVEL SUFFICIENT ONLY TO DIRECT TRAFFIC.  MORE 
PUBLIC SECURITY OFFICERS, AGAIN UNARMED, CIRCLED THE 
CROWD OF DEMONSTRATORS AS THEY SAT BEFORE THE GATE AT 
ZHONGNANHAI, BUT THEIR NUMBERS REMAINED INSUFFICIENT 
TO CONTROL DEMONSTRATORS IN THE EVENT OF VIOLENCE. 
POLOFF WITNESSED NO OVERT FRICTION BETWEEN 
DEMONSTRATORS AND POLICE THROUGHOUT HIS STAY ON THE 
SQUARE.  POLOFF ALSO SAW NO ARRESTS.  AS FAR AS WE 
KNOW, NO ARRESTS HAVE BEEN REPORTED BY THE PRESS. 
 
STUDENTS SHOW IMPROVED ORGANIZATION 
----------------------------------- 
12.  WE BELIEVE THAT THE APRIL 18 DEMONSTRATION TO 
HAVE BEEN AMONG THE LARGEST UNOFFICIAL GATHERINGS AT 
TIANANMEN SINCE THE APRIL, 1976 RIOTS, WHEN 
BEIJINGERS FLOODED THE CITY'S CENTRAL SQUARE TO SHOW 
SUPPORT FOR DECEASED PREMIER ZHOU ENLAI'S POLICIES. 
STUDENTS DEMONSTRATED AT TIANANMEN IN SEPTEMBER, 1985 
AND AGAIN IN DECEMBER, 1986.  IN JUNE, 1988 HUNDREDS 
OF POLICE SUCCESSFULLY CORDONED OFF THE SQUARE TO 
PREVENT PRO-DEMOCRACY BEIJING UNIVERSITY 
DEMONSTRATORS FROM GATHERING. 
 
13.  LAST NIGHT THE STUDENTS DISPLAYED A DEGREE OF 
ORGANIZATION HIGHER THAN IN PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS. 
HUNDREDS OF DEMONSTRATORS CROWDING THE MONUMENT FROM 
DIFFERENT SCHOOLS ALL WORE DARK CLOTHING.  STUDENTS 
SEEM TO HAVE AGREED THAT THEIR SLOGANS SHOULD REMAIN 
GENERAL AND NOT DIRECTLY STRIKE AT THE PARTY OR AT 
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS.  IT APPEARS UNLIKELY THAT THE 
MARCHERS WHO ARRIVED AT THE SQUARE LATE IN THE 
EVENING TO LINK UP WITH THEIR CLASSMATES ALREADY 
THERE COULD NOT HAVE PARADED AROUND THE SQUARE AND 
HEADED FOR ZHONGNANHAI SMOOTHLY WITHOUT PRIOR 
PLANNING. 
 
WHY NOW? 
-------- 
14.  THIS AND PAST DEMONSTRATIONS SUGGEST THAT 
STUDENT FRUSTRATION WITH LEADERSHIP POLITICAL 
RIGIDITY AND WITH THEIR OWN LOW PROSPECTS AND 
STANDARD OF LIVING RUNS DEEP.  IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT 
THEY WILL SCRIBBLE MORDANTLY CRITICAL BIG CHARACTER 
POSTERS AND THREATEN TO DEMONSTRATE WHENEVER GIVEN 
THE CHANCE.  LAST YEAR, BEIJING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS 
NEARLY TOOK TO THE STREETS AFTER A GANG OF 
DELINQUENTS MURDERED A GRADUATE STUDENT IN A SCUFFLE 
OFF CAMPUS.  THIS YEAR, DISCONTENT HAD ALREADY MADE 
ITSELF FELT DURING THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED NPC, WHEN 
BEIJING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TACKED UP PRO-DEMOCRACY 
POSTERS AND HELD UNAUTHORIZED POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS 
ON CAMPUS. 
 
15.  THE DEATH OF HU YAOBANG, WHO WAS WIDELY THOUGHT 
TO HAVE CHAMPIONED DEMOCRATIC REFORMS AS WELL AS 
INTELLECTUAL AND STUDENT CAUSES, HAS PROVIDED 
STUDENTS WITH A CONVENIENT PRETEXT FOR ACTION. 
STUDENT GRIEF OVER HU'S PASSING HAS BEEN EVIDENT AND 
SINCERE.  BUT A STRONG DESIRE TO SEE SPEEDIER 
DEMOCRATIC REFORMS AND IMPROVEMENTS IN THEIR OWN 
SITUATIONS LIES AT THE BASE OF THESE CURRENT 
DEMONSTRATIONS.  PRO-DEMOCRACY SLOGANS FAR OUTNUMBER 
STUDENTS' VOCAL EXPRESSIONS OF GRIEF FOR THE FALLEN 
POLITBURO MEMBER.  THE KNOTS OF PEOPLE ABOUT THE 
SQUARE WERE TALKING POLITICS, NOT EXCHANGING HU 
YAOBANG REMINISCENCES. 
 
WHAT'S THE PARTY TO DO? 
----------------------- 
16.  WE BELIEVE THAT THE LEADERSHIP HAS AT LEAST 
TACITLY DECIDED TO ALLOW STUDENTS TO BLOW OFF STEAM 
AT THE SQUARE AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT TURN VIOLENT, DO 
NOT DIRECTLY ATTACK THE PARTY, AND GATHER OSTENSIBLY 
TO MOURN HU YAOBANG.  WE UNDERSTAND THAT BEIJING 
UNIVERSITY HAS BEEN UNDER PARTICULARLY TIGHT CONTROL 
BY SECURITY ORGANS SINCE THE 1985 DEMONSTRATIONS. 
OFFICIAL INTIMIDATION OF WOULD BE DEMONSTRATORS 
APPEARS TO HAVE GREATLY HINDERED STUDENT ORGANIZING 
SINCE THEN.  THAT BEIJING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ARE OUT 
IN FORCE THIS TIME INDICATES TO US THAT UNIVERSITY 
OFFICIALS AND SECURITY ORGANS MAY HAVE BEEN TOLD TO 
PLAY IT COOL.  LIGHT POLICE PRESENCE ON THE SQUARE 
ALSO SUGGESTS LEADERSHIP TOLERANCE OF THE 
DEMONSTRATIONS FOR THE TIME BEING. 
 
17.  THE LEADERSHIP MAY BE HOPING THAT THE FRENETIC 
STUDENTS, MANY OF WHOM APPEAR TO HAVE CAMPED OUT ON 
TIANANMEN FOR THREE DAYS NOW, MAY SIMPLY TIRE OUT AND 
CALL IT QUITS.  THE AUTHORITIES HAVE DECIDED TO HOLD 
AN OFFICIAL MEMORIAL CEREMONY FOR HU YAOBANG ON 
SATURDAY, APRIL 22.  THIS WOULD BE THE LOGICAL DATE 
BEYOND WHICH LEADERS COULD CEASE TO TOLERATE STUDENT 
ACTIVISM.  THEY WOULD PROBABLY THEN CLAIM THAT THE 
LEGITIMATE MOURNING PERIOD FOR HU HAD FINISHED AND 
THAT THERE IS NO NEED FOR FURTHER ACTIVITIES.  THE 
PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY STUDENT TOLD POLOFF THAT HE 
THOUGHT STUDENTS WOULD GATHER AT THE SQUARE UNTIL THE 
MEMORIAL CEREMONY. 
 
18.  HOWEVER THE PARTY SEEKS PUBLICLY TO CHARACTERIZE 
THE ACTIVITIES THAT HAVE SO FAR CULMINATED IN THE 
APRIL 18 DEMONSTRATION, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE STUDENTS 
ARE VOICING SENTIMENTS ABOUT HU YAOBANG, THE 
AUTOCRATIC BUREAUCRACY, AND INCREASED OFFICIAL 
CORRUPTION THAT MANY REGULAR BEIJING CITIZENS SEEM TO 
SHARE AT LEAST QUIETLY.  LIKE ITS PREDECESSORS, THIS 
OUTPOURING MAY VERY WELL INTENSIFY PRESENT LEADERSHIP 
DEBATES OVER POLICY AND PERSONNEL ISSUES. 
 
 
LORD 

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