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© 1995, Long Bow Group Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Major funding for this program was provided by
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Produced in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).
The Gate of Heavenly Peace
The government was now ready to declare Martial Law. This news was leaked to the Hunger Strike Headquarters ahead of time. The students suddenly announced the end of their week-long hunger strike and began a mass sit-in.
On the evening of May 19th, Premier Li Peng addressed an emergency meeting of state and army leaders. His speech was broadcast as army units moved towards the city.
We must end this situation immediately. Otherwise, the fate and future of our People's Republic, for which numerous martyrs have shed their blood, will be in grave danger!
CROWD OF STUDENTS IN SQUARE
Li Peng, step down!
Li Peng's speech only served to incite the people of Beijing.
Street merchants got on their motorcycles. Calling themselves the "Flying Tigers," they sped to the Square to report on troop movements.
Convoys were blocked by crowds of protesters, and their supporters.
YOUNG MAN TO SOLDIERS IN TRUCK
Officers and soldiers of the People's Liberation Army, I appeal to your conscience and courage. Be a true People's Army. Do not become the tool of a small handful! Do not end up as the shame of our nation!
YOUNG WOMAN TO SOLDIERS IN TRUCK
Brother soldiers! Do you know? Do you know? Do you know anything about what we're doing?
Brother soldiers, you're supposed to be defenders of the people, defenders of students! You must not attack them! Don't you know? You cannot do this!
THE PLA AND THE PEOPLE - SCENES OF PLA ENTERING BEIJING IN 1949
The People's Liberation Army had entered Beijing once before--in 1949. It was a time when the PLA was welcomed in many cities.
Over the years the army was seen as a true People's Army: from the people, of the people, and for the people. The Party said that the army was like fish and the people like water: fish can't live out of water.
The PLA was the guardian of the state, protector of the people. In times of natural disaster, the army was there to help fight floods, famine, and fire.
Party propaganda promoted a popular image of the army. Films, fiction, and stage productions celebrated the PLA, and created a pantheon of army heroes for mass consumption.
In early 1989, the PLA received its annual tribute in the Chinese New Year TV extravaganza.
WOMAN SINGS FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR TV SHOW
Why is the banner of war as beautiful as a painting?
Because it glimmers with the soldier's fresh red blood.
Why does the spring linger o'er the earth forever?
Because the lives of our heroes have given birth to flowers.
Now, 40 years after being welcomed into Beijing, the army was coming again.
This time it came as an alien force.
On the morning of May 20th Martial Law regulations were announced. The police and the army were authorized to clear the streets.
But people ignored the government's orders. The city was still jammed with demonstrators. Helicopters were the only military vehicles moving.
LOUDSPEAKER ON BUS
This is the propaganda bus of the students' patriotic, democratic movement.
Faced with the threat of armed repression, the students tried to mobilize even greater public support.
LOUDSPEAKER ON BUS
Workers and citizens of Beijing, the democracy movement has reached a critical moment. Student hunger strikers and supporters are in danger of being punished. We call on the workers and citizens to go out on strike. Go to Tiananmen Square to uphold justice! To fight for the truth!
BUS BREAKS DOWNPush hard as we chant together. Li Peng, step down!
Just at the moment when the students most needed the support and protection of a mass movement, a group of workers declared the founding of an independent union.
They set up a public address station at the north-west corner of Tiananmen Square.
I became a broadcaster. People sent us a lot of letters. For the last forty years, there'd been no channel for them to express themselves. By broadcasting their letters, we gave them a voice.
There are many people like me. We wanted to listen to something simple, direct and to the point.
The independent workers' union not only put forth its own demands, it also helped out the students by sending them food and water. Without the people of Beijing: the workers, the farmers from the outskirts of the city, and the street merchants, the students couldn't have persisted for long.
The new union helped mobilize citizens to block the Martial Law Troops.
For some 48 hours the troops remained stuck in the sea of the people, moving neither forward nor back.
I saw an old woman lying down in front of a military truck. Her face was all wrinkles, and she had no front teeth. I saw all these ordinary people, acting not out of political calculation, or with any ulterior motive, but purely out of sympathy and a sense of justice, confronting the troops to protect the students on Tiananmen Square. I was very moved.
Sometimes I was disappointed in how foolish and childish the students could be. Once a couple of them came to me to discuss their plans. One claimed to be the Commander-in-Chief of student security guards. Tourist map in hand, he began to "command". He said, see here, to the south of us there are such and such troops, and to the north of us there are such and such troops. He had all four points of the compass covered.
CHINESE MOVIE "FROM VICTORY TO VICTORY"
COMMANDER IN "FROM VICTORY TO VICTORY"
The situation is extremely grave. Facing us are eighteen enemy divisions. They are pushing north towards us.
I was reminded of a movie I saw called "From Victory to Victory". In it the Communist commander points to a map and says, "Facing us are this many troops, on our flank are that many troops," and so on. I watched this kid carry on like this and felt like laughing.
He said, "If we blockaded every intersection we'd be spreading our troops too thin. I plan to concentrate our forces closer to the Square." I felt that this manner of military command, like a child playing at war, came straight out of Communist propaganda. And I wondered: How did I get involved with this lot?
MAN WAVING FLOWERS TO PLA SOLDIERS
On behalf of the people of the whole country, millions and millions of people, I will present them with this bouquet of victory!
The massive show of resistance to the army was successful. The troops pulled back to the suburbs.
CROWD CHANTS AS TRUCKS PULL AWAY
Long live the People's Liberation Army!
The danger had passed. People continued to pour into the streets. The workers had helped win a victory for the movement at the Square, but unlike the students, their need to make a living tied them to their work places.
A union unrelated to the work place is not really a union at all. Yet here we were, setting up a union at Tiananmen Square, inspired by a student movement. What kind of future could it possibly have?
But there was no way we could organize in the factories. Furthermore, I knew that the movement was going to come to an end soon.
All we could do was to try to take advantage of the popular fervor to educate the workers, to let them know that the constitution grants them all kinds of rights, none of which have been put into practice.
This way, after the movement in the streets ended and things returned to normal, some effects of the movement would still be felt. What I mean here is an awareness of constitutional rights: workers and peasants would know what rights they should enjoy, and they'd also know about the legal channels open to them so they can demand those rights.
Meanwhile, among the students a struggle over tactics unfolded.
Some of us wanted the students to leave the Square. Not only out of consideration for the students' safety, we also thought it was good tactics. By leaving the Square we would have undermined the rationale for imposing Martial Law, and that might have given the reformers in the government an opportunity.
Many students do not understand that the Square is our only stronghold. Some people keep saying that we should leave. But that could only please the government. What makes me really sad is that I am the commander-in-chief, and I can't let go of this power because I must resist compromise, resist these traitors. The leaders of the Independent Student Unions of Beijing and of the provinces are all after my power.
In the intense atmosphere of the Square, the leaders with more radical agendas had the advantage.
These were people who had come to prominence through the hunger strike. They had not stood for election on campus; their credentials were a determination to make the greatest sacrifices; their power base the continuing acclaim of their followers.
They set up a new headquarters to defend Tiananmen Square. Once more, Chai Ling became Commander-in-Chief. The Commander had control of the loudspeakers, the voice of the Square that broadcast to the masses.
CHAI LING'S VOICE FROM LOUDSPEAKERS ON THE SQUARE
For a brand-new, people's democratic republic, we will fight to the end!
The continued hard-line pursued by the government would further undermine moderation and encourage a hard-line among the students.
I used to believe that we could establish democratic processes, and then a lot of people could use science to really help our country. But now I've come to realize that unless we overthrow this inhuman government, our country will have no hope! Our people will have no hope!