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This transcript is being provided for reference purposes only.
It may not be reproduced without prior written permission from the .
© 1995, Long Bow Group Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Major funding for this program was provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities,
The Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Produced in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

The Gate of Heavenly Peace

MAY 27


By the end of May the students' resources--financial, political, and emotional--were running low, and the Square was getting more squalid every day.

Some concerned intellectuals had set up joint meetings involving workers' and citizens' groups, the independent student unions, and the Defend Tiananmen Square Headquarters. They had been meeting daily since May 23rd.

Wang Dan acted as liaison among them.


At the May 27th coalition meeting, Chai Ling and Feng Congde reported on the situation in the Square. The impression we got was that things were really chaotic. There was endless factional in-fighting, and sanitary conditions were terrible. We began to doubt whether anything positive could come out of this on-going stalemate.

So we drafted a proposal. The vote in favor of it was unanimous, including Chai Ling. Later, we held a press conference in the Square to announce this proposal.

WANG DAN, Press Conference on the Square

To avoid an irrational confrontation with this irrational government, and to create conditions to resolve this conflict through legal and democratic procedures, we propose suspending our peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square on May 30th, the tenth day after the declaration of martial law.


After the press conference, Li Lu raised objections to our proposal. Then Chai Ling changed her mind and decided to oppose it too.


The people who made the decision to leave the Square on May 30th had a very negative effect on the movement. I attended the meeting, but I didn't realize at the time how harmful their decision would be. The real issue at that meeting was that some people were trying to use the movement to make themselves famous, and we opposed this. I want to say to everyone that the Square is our only stronghold. If we lose it, the conservatives will overrun China!


I regret we didn't debate the issue further. Although we had many good arguments in our favor, we felt we could never compete with the emotional appeal of their position. So we gave up. I think we should have acted more responsibly.

After that I thought that any attempt to influence the situation on the Square would be futile. There was nothing more I could do. So I decided to go back to campus and do what I could to further democracy there.


Why did the students want to stay at Tiananmen? Because our goal was to awaken the people.

Tiananmen is the symbol of our People's Republic. When we took action there, we were telling people throughout the country that there were still some of us who dared to fight back. A lot of students felt that the longer we held out, the more time people would have to think freely.

We held a meeting at the Square every night. Two to three hundred representatives from the various universities would get together. The issue of whether or not to leave came up almost every time. At least 80% of the students always voted to stay. If we were to stick to the principle of majority rule, it was impossible to leave the Square.


The student population at the Square was constantly changing. As those who grew discouraged or disgusted left, they were replaced by enthusiastic newcomers from all over the country. At any one time there was a majority on the Square who would vote to stay; those who thought it best to leave voted with their feet.


As the students debated whether or not to continue their occupation of the Square, a marathon benefit concert was being held on a race track in Hong Kong. Millions of dollars were raised for the movement in Beijing.

That night a shipment of tents and other supplies arrived at the Square, the first installment in a flood of support from Hong Kong.

CHAI LING speaking to crowd in the Square

I am Chai Ling. I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Defend Tiananmen Headquarters.

We will mobilize Chinese people around the world to protest martial law! Martial law won't succeed in ten days, in a year, in a hundred years! Those who lose the hearts of the people will perish! Overthrow the illegal government headed by Li Peng!


Chai Ling had successfully resisted the proposal to move the struggle back to the campuses, and allied herself once more with those determined to hold the Square.

On the following morning, she contacted American journalist Philip Cunningham.


I've been feeling very sad recently. The students themselves lack a developed sense of democracy. To be honest, from the day I called for a hunger strike I knew we would not get any results. Certain people, certain causes are bound to fail. I've been very clear about this all along, but I've made an effort to present a staunch image, to show that we were striving for victory. But deep down I knew it was all futile.

The more involved I got, the sadder I became. I already felt this back in April. All along I've kept it to myself, because being Chinese I felt I shouldn't bad-mouth the Chinese. But I can't help thinking sometimes -- and I might as well say it -- you, the Chinese, you are not worth my struggle! You are not worth my sacrifice! But then I can also see that in this movement there are many people who do have a conscience. There are many decent people among the students, workers, citizens, and intellectuals.

The students keep asking, "What should we do next? What can we accomplish?" I feel so sad, because how can I tell them that what we are actually hoping for is bloodshed, for the moment when the government has no choice but to brazenly butcher the people. Only when the Square is awash with blood will the people of China open their eyes. Only then will they really be united. But how can I explain any of this to my fellow students?

And what is truly sad is that some students, and some famous, well-connected people, are working hard to help the government, to prevent it from taking such measures. For the sake of their selfish interests and their private dealings they are trying to cause our movement to collapse and get us out of the Square before the government becomes so desperate that it takes action.

If we allow the movement to collapse on its own, then the government will be able to wipe out all the leaders of the movement, as well as those leaders in the Party and in the military who dare to oppose them, who represent the people. Deng Xiaoping has made it very clear that there is this small handful of people, not only in the Party and in society, but also among the students.

That's why I feel so sad, because I can't say all this to my fellow students. I can't tell them straight out that we must use our blood and our lives to call on the people to rise up. Of course, the students will be willing. But they are still such young children!


Are you going to stay in the Square yourself?

No, I won't.




Because my situation is different. My name is on the government's hit list. I'm not going to let myself be destroyed by this government. I want to live. Anyway, that's how I feel about it. I don't know if people will say I'm selfish. I believe that others have to continue the work I have started. A democracy movement can't succeed with only one person!


When Chai Ling finished her interview, she asked the American journalist to take the tape he had made out to the world.

She told him that she must now leave Beijing and go underground.

That day, students at the nearby Central Art Academy were finishing work on a statue, which they called the Goddess of Democracy.

The next night, as the Goddess of Democracy moved from the Art Academy to Tiananmen, a television reporter interviewed Chai Ling in one of the new tents on the Square.

She had changed her mind about leaving.

CHAI LING, interview on the Square

After I offered my resignation, many people said that it wasn't right for me to quit at this moment. Since I enjoy considerable prestige within the movement, my resignation would have a negative effect at a time when many students are wavering. So I've decided to stay on for the time being. I'll try to get some rest and help set up a new leadership structure.


Are you thinking of other ways to advance the movement?


Yes. The emphasis of our work should no longer be at the Square, but should be broadened to the whole country. I would like to travel all over the country, even to Hong Kong and other parts of the world. I want to learn about the situation outside and then decide how long we should carry on the battle of Tiananmen Square and determine what effect we can have.


Democracy: the ideal everyone talked about.

She stood facing Mao Zedong on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Mao, who had said that he too wanted democracy: Mass Democracy.

What does democracy mean? What was it coming to mean in China? What could it be made to mean?

If democracy came to China, what would she look like? Whose features would she wear?

There seemed a chance at least that her face would look all too familiar.



Although some cracks have appeared in the system over the past 10 years, the way the whole nation thinks has not yet broken free of the mold created by Mao.

In the past century or so, the Chinese people have shed blood time and again, without losing the courage to fight for their ideals. Each battle, however, has ended in a new tragedy, another shattered dream. I believe that what the Chinese lack is not ideals, but the means through which to realize them; not courage, but the wisdom necessary to achieve their goal. What the Chinese lack is not a heart, but a mind. During the Cultural Revolution there was only one mind: that of Mao. After Mao's death, hundreds of millions of minds needed to start functioning again. It is much harder for the mind to recover than the stomach.


Though they gave the movement no new goals or direction, the bright new tents and supplies from Hong Kong -- which included massive infusions of cash -- would've lifted anyone's flagging spirits.

FENG CONGDE, at meeting with John Shum

We are grateful for the support provided by our Hong Kong friends. Your support has boosted our confidence.


And how did you raise the money in Hong Kong?

JOHN SHUM - Film and TV producer

Several -- many, many ways. For example, there was one concert, "Concert for Democracy in China." In that concert alone, fourteen million Hong Kong dollars, fourteen, was raised, okay; and through other channels, phone-ins, or other, many, many channels -- through federation of student union in Hong Kong -- they raised more than ten million. So we are talking about quite, you know, quite some money here.


International support suggested the possibility of a real victory for the movement; but money did nothing to stop the struggles for power being played out on the Square.



At 4:00 a.m. Chai Ling and I were sleeping in a tent. Several people burst in, gagged us, and tried to take us away. But I broke free.

CHAI LING speaking into telephone

My husband and I yelled with all our might, "I'm Chai Ling! I'm Feng Congde! We're the Commanders! We're being kidnapped!" So other students rescued us.

REPORTER to Chen Wei

Chai Ling said you were one of the kidnappers.

CHEN WEI - student from Shenyang

I didn't know of any plans to kidnap them. But before that happened, I heard many complaints about Chai Ling, Li Lu and Feng Congde. Some people disliked their leadership style and the messy finances. So they took radical action. This kind of personal attack is not right. I am absolutely opposed to it. We should use peaceful and democratic means to resolve such problems.

REPORTER to Chai Ling

What do you think were the kidnappers' motives?


Many signs show that this was a well-organized, premeditated plot. We've learned that the government has been buying off student traitors. They're trying to weaken the leadership at the Square and destroy our movement.


Holding onto the Square like this was absolutely meaningless. And I felt it was harmful to the students' cause.

One day a friend of mine who was a fairly well-known intellectual came to see me. I told him that I had been going to the Square every day to persuade all of my students to leave.

But he said that the students shouldn't leave. He said,"With the students at the front lines, we'll be safe. Once the students withdraw, the government will come after the intellectuals." I was furious. I said, "So you want the students to shield you from danger! What right do you have to hide behind them? Why don't you try living in the Square like that? It's easy for you to talk, never missing a meal and sleeping in your own comfortable home!"

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