US embassy cable - 89BEIJING14102

SITREP NO. 9: TIANANMEN SQUARE ON MAY 22: THE LONG VIGIL TO MORNING

Identifier: 89BEIJING14102
Wikileaks: View 89BEIJING14102 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beijing
Created: 1989-05-22 04:50:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM SOCI MARR CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 220450Z MAY 89
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 8993
INFO AIT TAIPEI IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL HONG KONG IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL SHENYANG IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE
COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL CHENGDU POUCH)
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 14102 
 
CINCPAC FOR FPA FINNEY 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, MARR, CH 
SUBJECT:  SITREP NO. 9:  TIANANMEN SQUARE ON MAY 22: 
          THE LONG VIGIL TO MORNING 
 
REF:  BEIJING 14054 AND PREVIOUS 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  ON MAY 21, ONCE AGAIN STUDENTS AND THEIR 
SUPPORTERS WENT ALL OUT TO BLOCK AN EXPECTED ENTRANCE 
BY PLA TROOPS INTO BEIJING.  ONCE AGAIN, ROADBLOCKS 
WERE SET UP AT ALL MAJOR INTERSECTIONS AND MANNED BY 
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DEMONSTRATORS.  AND ONCE 
AGAIN, THE ARMY DID NOT SHOW.  THE SENSE OF VICTORY 
WHICH THE WEARY DEMONSTRATORS CELEBRATED AT DAYBREAK 
APPEARED LARGER THAN JUST ONE MORE NIGHT OF DEFIANCE, 
THE NINTH NIGHT OF THE TIANANMEN OCCUPATION.  A 
WIDESPREAD VIEW AMONG DEMONSTRATORS WAS THAT AFTER 
THIS NIGHT AND FORTY-EIGHT SURREAL HOURS OF 
NON-ENFORCED MARTIAL LAW, THE PROVERBIAL "MANDATE"-- 
POLITICAL LEGITIMACY--OF THE CURRENT LEADERSHIP HAS 
BEEN LOST.  IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN, OF COURSE, WHETHER 
THE LEADERSHIP AGREES.  WE HAVE JUST BEEN TOLD BY AFP, 
HOWEVER, THAT THEY ARE RUNNING A STORY, WHICH WE 
CANNOT/CANNOT CONFIRM, THAT LI PENG, HU QILI, QIAO SHI 
AND YAO YILIN RESIGNED AT A CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETING 
LAST NIGHT.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  ONCE AGAIN AT 1730 ON MAY 21, THOUSANDS OF BEIJING 
RESIDENTS BEGAN STREAMING TOWARD TIANANMEN AND TOWARD 
CRUCIAL TRAFFIC INTERSECTIONS.  THE TENSION WAS 
NOTICEABLY LESS THAN THE PREVIOUS NIGHT, SINCE THE 
PREVENTION OF PLA ENTRANCE INTO THE CITY AT THAT TIME 
GREATLY BOOSTED CONFIDENCE.  STILL THERE WAS 
UNCERTAINTY AND A SENSE OF IMPINGING CONFRONTATION.  A 
STORY--PROBABLY APOCRYPHAL--WIDELY CIRCULATING IN 
BEIJING CLAIMED THAT THE AUTHORITIES HAD ISSUED AN 
ULTIMATUM ON THE EVENING OF MAY 21 THREATENING 
MILITARY ACTION IF TIANANMEN SQUARE WERE NOT CLEARED 
(QINGLI GUANGCHANG) BY 0500 ON MAY 22. 
 
4.  THE CITY-WIDE NETWORK OF POPULAR-CONTROLLED 
STREETS EXPANDED OVER THE PREVIOUS EVENING, AS BOTH 
MORE PEOPLE GATHERED AT EACH INTERSECTION AND MORE 
INTERSECTIONS WERE "OCCUPIED" AND POLICED BY 
DEMONSTRATORS.  THE ROADBLOCKS WERE WELL-ORGANIZED, 
WITH LINES OF DEMONSTRATORS FUNNELLING CARS AND TRUCKS 
INTO A SINGLE LINE AND HEADBANDED YOUTHS CHECKING THE 
OCCUPANTS AND, OCCASIONALLY, THE ID'S OF VEHICLE 
OCCUPANTS.  THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE BEIJING 
RESIDENTS WERE YOUNG WORKERS (LATE TEENS TO LATE 
TWENTIES) OR UNEMPLOYED YOUTHS. 
 
5.  TIANANMEN SQUARE ITSELF WAS QUIETER AND THE CROWD 
SMALLER THAN THE PREVIOUS NIGHT, LESS THAN 100,000. 
THE STUDENT ENCAMPMENT POPULATION WAS DOWN 
CONSIDERABLY, PERHAPS AS LOW AS 20,000.  ALL 
DEMONSTRATORS QUESTIONED EXPLAINED TO EMBOFF THAT THE 
REASON FOR THE LOW NUMBERS WAS THAT MANY OF THE 
STUDENTS HAD GONE TO JOIN ROADBLOCKS ON THE THIRD RING 
ROAD TO "OPPOSE VIOLENCE WITH THEIR BODIES" (YONG 
SHENTI KANG BAOLI).  THEY INSISTED THAT THE TOTAL 
"REGULAR" STUDENT POPULATION IN THE TIANANMEN 
ENCAMPMENT REMAINED ABOVE 200,000 WHEN THESE ABSENT 
STUDENTS WERE INCLUDED. 
 
6.  STUDENTS STATED THAT THEY HAD SWORN TO REMAIN IN 
THE SQUARE IN THE FACE OF THE 0500 DEADLINE, THE 
REPORT OF WHICH THEY CLEARLY BELIEVED TO BE TRUE.  A 
NUMBER OF DEMONSTRATORS EXPRESSED THEIR CONVICTION 
THAT THIS NIGHT WOULD BE PIVOTAL (JINTIAN WANSHANG SHI 
GUANJIANDE WANSHANG) IN THEIR STRUGGLE.  THE CRY "DOWN 
WITH DENG XIAOPING, DOWN WITH LI PENG" (DENG XIAOPING, 
LI PENG, XIATAI) REGULARLY BROKE THE NIGHT AIR. 
 
7.  UNANIMITY WAS THE ORDER OF THE DAY, WITH A LOW 
TOLERANCE FOR DISSENT AMONG THE DEMONSTRATORS.  WHEN 
ONE "RECENT UNIVERSITY GRADUATE" EXPRESSED TO EMBOFF 
DOUBT THAT THE PLA WOULD TRY TO ENTER TIANANMEN SQUARE 
THAT NIGHT, HE WAS VICIOUSLY CRITICIZED BY STUDENTS. 
WHEN HE SOUGHT TO EXPLAIN HIS CONCLUSION LOGICALLY, HE 
WAS FORCIBLY EJECTED FROM THE GATHERING.  THE 
DEMONSTRATORS DID NOT WISH ANY NOTE OF DISSENSION TO 
ENTER THEIR DISCUSSION, PARTICULARLY IN THE PRESENCE 
OF A FOREIGNER. 
 
8.  AT 0100, A DELEGATION FROM XINHUA CIRCLED THE 
SQUARE BEHIND A BANNER PROCLAIMING "LET BLOOD FLOW TO 
OPPOSE FORCE" (YIXUE KANGBAO).  SHORTLY AFTER, ABOUT 
1,000 MEMBERS OF THE RED-HEADBANDED "BEIJING RESIDENTS 
DARE-TO-DIE BRIGADE" (BEIJING SHIMIN GANSIDUI) ARRIVED 
IN THE SQUARE, FORMED THEIR OWN CIRCLE OF HANDS, AND 
BEGAN EXHORTING AND ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER TO THE TASK 
WHICH LAY BEFORE THEM, I.E., THE EXPECTED 0500 
CONFRONTATION.  THEY PROCLAIMED OVER AND OVER, "WE ARE 
NOT AFRAID" (WOMEN BU HAIPA) AND THEIR WILLINGNESS TO 
SACRIFICE TO THE DEATH.  THIS "BRIGADE" WAS FORMED ON 
THE AFTERNOON OF MAY 20 AND, SAY MEMBERS, HAS A TOTAL 
MEMBERSHIP OF OVER 3,000; MEMBERSHIP CONSISTS ALMOST 
ENTIRELY OF YOUNG WORKERS AND UNEMPLOYED MALES.  THE 
"MOTORCYCLE BRIGADE" (MOTUOCHE DUI) REGULARLY ROARED 
AROUND THE SQUARE.  STUDENTS EXPLAINED THAT THESE 250 
"PRIVATE ENTREPRENEURS" (GETIHU) ARE NOT LIKE AMERICAN 
MOTORCYCLE GANGS (BANG), FOR THEY SERVE AS IMPORTANT 
SOURCES OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION FOR THE 
STUDENTS. 
 
10.  AT DAWN, THE MOOD BEGAN TO LIGHTEN AND TENSION 
DISSIPATED.  JUBILANT MARCHERS BEGAN PASSING BEFORE 
THE TIANANMEN REVIEWING STANDS AND OF MOTORCYCLES 
RACED THROUGH THE SQUARE, HORNS BLARING IN 
CELEBRATION.  AT 0521, THE STREET LIGHTS IN THE SQUARE 
CLICKED OFF AND CHEERS OF VICTORY BROKE OUT. 
 
11.  AT 0550, THE LONG SILENT GOVERNMENT LOUDSPEAKERS 
ENCIRCLING TIANANMEN SQUARE STARTED UP AGAIN. 
"CITIZENS OF BEIJING," BOOMED THE ANNOUNCER, "BEIJING 
IS STILL IN DISORDER."  THE SITUATION, HE CONTINUED, 
"MUST BE RESTORED TO NORMAL AT ONCE."  THE 
DEMONSTRATORS LOOKED AT EACH OTHER, STUNNED BY THE 
CONTRAST BETWEEN HACKNEYED OFFICIAL LINE AND WHAT THEY 
PERCEIVED TO BE THEIR MOMENT OF VICTORY.  THE 
ANNOUNCER CONTINUED WITH THE GOVERNMENT ORDERS:  "YI 
(FIRST)," BEIJING CITIZENS SHOULD RETURN TO THEIR 
NORMAL ORDER OF LIFE.  LAUGHTER RIPPLED THROUGH THE 
CROWD, THEN JEERING BROKE OUT.  "ER (SECOND)" ECHOED 
ACROSS THE SQUARE AS THE CROWD TOOK UP THE CHANT OF 
NUMBERS:  CITIZENS SHOULD RETURN TO WORK; "SAN 
(THREE)," STUDENTS SHOULD RETURN TO THEIR 
UNIVERSITIES; "SI (FOUR)," ETC. 
 
12.  WHEN EMBOFF ASKED THE CROWD AROUND HIM WHAT THIS 
ANNOUNCEMENT MEANT, MOST SAID, "IT MEANS NOTHING."  AN 
ELDERLY LADY SAID, "IT MEANS THEY COULDN'T ENTER THE 
CITY" (JINBULAI).  A MIDDLE-AGED WORKER STATED 
SUCCINCTLY, "IT IS OVER.  THEY ARE DEFEATED". 
(SUANLE.  TAMEN SHULE).  WHEN THE BRIEF ANNOUNCEMENT 
WAS REBROADCAST, IT WAS AT ONCE DROWNED OUT BY 
LAUGHTER AND JEERING. 
 
13.  EMBOFF RETURNED HOME THROUGH A DISORDERLY CITY. 
THERE WAS THE INEVITABLE DEBRIS OF LARGE CROWDS; THERE 
WERE STREET DIVIDER RAILINGS STREWN ABOUT, RIPPED UP 
TO THWART THE PLA ADVANCE THAT NEVER WAS; THERE WERE 
BUSES TURNED SIDEWAYS TO FORM ROADBLOCKS AT MAJOR 
INTERSECTIONS; AND THERE WERE THE PEOPLE, WEARY BUT 
CHEERFULLY GREETING EACH OTHER.  "NI ZAO" (GOOD 
MORNING, HOW ARE YOU), THEY CALLED OUT TO STRANGERS IN 
VERY UNBEIJING-LIKE BEHAVIOR.  MARCHING DELEGATIONS 
SALUTED EACH OTHER WITH CHANTS, AND PEOPLE THANKED THE 
DELEGATIONS.  MANY CALLED OUT TO EMBOFF, WHOM THEY 
TOOK TO BE A CORRESPONDENT, "PLEASE QUICKLY REPORT 
THIS TO THE WORLD."  AT EACH CORNER CROWDS GATHERED 
AROUND SOAPBOX SPEAKERS.  THE TONE WAS ONE OF 
VICTORY.  "TODAY IS THE PEOPLE'S DAY, TOMORROW IS THE 
PEOPLE'S DAY, FOREVER IS THE PEOPLE'S DAY," PROCLAIMED 
ONE STUDENT. 
 
14.  MAY 21-22 WAS MORE THAN JUST THE NINTH NIGHT OF 
THE STUDENT OCCUPATION OF TIANANMEN SQUARE.  IT WAS A 
PSYCHOLOGICAL RUBICON; IN THE VIEW OF THE 
DEMONSTRATORS, AT LEAST, THE AUTHORITIES "LOST."  IN 
THE MINDS OF MANY DEMONSTRATORS, THE LEADERSHIP'S 
FAILURE TO CLEAR THE CITY LAST NIGHT WAS A DEFEAT 
WHICH CONSTITUTED LOSS OF THE PROVERBIAL "MANDATE OF 
HEAVEN." 
 
 
LILLEY 

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