Two years after the Tienanmen massacre

June 12, 1991

By Zhang Kai

HONG KONG — On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the April 5 Tienanmen uprising and the second anniversary of Democracy Movement '89, the overseas edition of People's Daily failed to censor a poem with an embedded phrase: "Li Peng, step down to placate people's anger".

On April 1, there was a wall poster in a street near Tienanmen Square calling for Li Peng's resignation.

Later, according to UPI, a statement signed by students from at least four Beijing colleges pointed out that those who participated in Democracy Movement '89 are quietly continuing their resistance against the repression and are persisting inside the campus.

Anti-government posters and leaflets appeared in many places in Beijing in April, and the authorities believe that underground organisations have been set up inside the campus. Liu Yanbin, a student of People's University, was arrested for publishing the underground journal Democratic Discussions, which called for reforms of the communist system.

In Shanghai, Gu Bin, Yang Zhou and others reportedly set up the first human rights organisation and organised "underground journals".

The anti-Li Peng poem became widely known inside China because of the response of the government and the People's Daily.

Answering questions from foreign reporters, Li Peng tried to play down the incident as "a small matter not worth mentioning", thus contradicting the accusation by the public security minister that the publication of the poem is "a severe matter" that will be investigated.

Interestingly, it was revealed by the chief of People's Daily that, of the 32% of his staff who took part in Democracy Movement '89, only 1% have so far been punished due to "a lenient policy adopted because too many people have taken part".

In his report to the National People's Congress, the head of the Supreme Court said that 490 cases related to Democracy Movement '89 have been heard in Beijing, involving 750 persons. In addition, 72 persons were tried in 62 cases on more serious charges of incitement and plotting to destabilise the government. He also claimed that trials of Democracy Movement '89 activists "have basically finished".

In fact, new arrests have been taking place. Liu Yanbin, Gu Bin and Yang Zhou have all been detained. Others have been summoned for questioning.

In April, four university graduates in the city of Wuhan were charges of forming "a secret society" in June 1990 and "killing a taxi driver" in November 1990. As usual, no details were reported in the newspaper.

Li Peng tried to justify the June 4 massacre by saying that, without such repressive measures, there would not have been stability and economic prosperity in China today.

However, what followed the June 4 massacre was the "most difficult period" in the economy, which was not just due to the rectification and adjustment policy of the regime, but also partly to passive resistance and negative attitudes by workers, and foreign sanctions in loans and investment.

Since then, although production has increased again, it was only because the state pumped in large loans while the market remained sluggish, stocks continued to build up, economic efficiency continued to fall, the proportion of enterprises suffering losses increased by two-thirds and their indebtedness increased 120% over the previous year.

Taking into account the income from internal and foreign loans, the state budget deficit for 1990 was 42.3 billion yuan (about US$8 billion), while the actual deficit was 50.9 billion yuan; the budget deficit for 1991 is 47.6 billion yuan. The finance minister reported that state financial difficulties increased in 1990 to "a state not known for many years" and "the 1991 situation is very grave".

Crimes have increased significantly over the last two years. Official figures show an increase of over 10% in 1990, with over 605, 000 persons arrested for criminal offences, where "gang crimes were more rampant and most of the offenders were youths".

Since the June 4 massacre, the discontent of the working class towards the regime has been increasing. An immediate cause is the austerity policy of the government, leading to a large increase in the number of unemployed and underemployed. This has resulted in urgent appeals from the official All China Federation of Trade Unions and in Workers' Daily.

According to an article in the April issue of Zheng Ming, a journal in Hong Kong which claims to have insider news in China, the State Security Ministry reported that in the first eight months of 1990 there were over 42,000 cases of "reactionary slogans", explosions, sabotage, assassinations and other acts of resistance in industrial and mining enterprises throughout the country, and that workers' secret organisations were discovered in Hunan, Liaoning, Sichuan, Shanxi, Hebel and other provinces. The article also described several strikes and other struggles.

The recent appointment of Zhou Jiahua and Zhu Rongil as deputy prime ministers may reflect a factional struggle and reorganisation of power in face of the sharpening social and economic difficulties.

What is worth noting is the explanation Li Peng gave for their "firm and unequivocal in their position during the struggle to quell the counter-revolutionary riot in 1989". The emphasis on their position two years ago could reflect still strong dissent and opposition within the party, such that Li wants more people to share the blame and responsibility.

Although the democracy movement has not yet risen again to the surface, there are many signs that the social and economic crises are deepening, and the masses are waiting for an opportunity to mobilise again.
[Abridged from October Review.]

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