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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Witnessing Tiananmen: Student talks fail
Wuer Kaixi during 1989 protests
Wuer Kaixi's image was broadcast around the world
Fifteen years ago, China witnessed huge protests and calls for change, before these were brutally crushed by tanks around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The BBC's Chinese Service has interviewed some of those who witnessed the protests and subsequent bloodshed.

Wuer Kaixi, one of the best-known student leaders, fled China after the protests and now lives in Taiwan.

The student movement of course wanted to achieve political aims. Our expectations at the time ware quite clear and definite.

We wanted legal recognition of the student organisation, we wanted an organisation in China similar to the trade union Solidarity in Poland, which could become a platform for promoting democracy in China, for promoting multi-party politics and for promoting freedom of speech as well as a series of other democratic developments in China.

Therefore, if we could have the opportunity to put great pressure on the government, to meet and talk with government officials, we would of course greatly value such an opportunity.

On that day, because of my hunger strike I got some inflammation of the heart muscle and was admitted to hospital.

But I ran away from the hospital and returned to Tiananmen Square. That is why I was dressed like that. [Wuer Kaixi was seen on television dressed in something like a pair of pyjamas.] Let me clarify it. I wasn't wearing pyjamas. I was still in the hospital clothing for patients.

Zhao Ziyang, 19 May 1989
15 April - Reformist leader Hu Yaobang dies
22 April - Hu's memorial service, thousands call for faster reforms
13 May - Students begin hunger strike as power struggle grips Communist party
15 May - Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits China
19 May - Zhao Ziyang (pictured) makes tearful appeal to students to leave
20 May - Martial law declared in Beijing
3-4 June - Security forces clear the square, killing hundreds

When I returned to Tiananmen Square I met Wang Chaohua. She said: 'Oh, Wuer Kaixi. I was looking for you! The government has finally agreed to see us.'

So you can say we were really full of hopes when we entered the Great Hall of the People. And I still remember very clearly, the actual room we went into was the Xinjiang Hall. I sat down with Wang Dan and we waited for about five minutes before Li Peng arrived.

He first shook hands with all of us. He then sat down and went into a long opening monologue of admonitions. To tell the truth, we immediately felt an uneasy sense of foreboding about the outcome of the meeting - This is not really dialogue and negotiation; certain political decisions have already been made beforehand!

Well, no matter whether decisions have already been made or not, we are representing the students and the pressure groups of the people to talk to the government. If the Prime Minister is adopting such a high-handed and haughty attitude towards us and is trying to put pressure on us this is not going to look good for the people.

Of course, Li Peng first said he was sorry for being late for five minutes. The reason, he said, was traffic congestion. Traffic congestion! Of course, he was implying that the student demonstration had thrown Beijing into such chaos and a state of anarchy. He was actually blaming us.

I quickly exchanged a few words with Wang Dan and decided to interrupt the Prime Minister.

As for myself, having taken part in such an event and having played a small role in it has made me feel truly proud
Wuer Kaixi

I said to him: 'I am sorry Prime Minster Li Peng, I have to interrupt you. You may think that you have been late for only five minutes. May I point out you have actually been late for a month, not five minutes. I am referring to the meeting we wanted for 17 April at Zhongnanhai [where China's top leaders live and work.]

And then on 22 April and in front of the Great Hall of the People we had implored you to come out and talk with us. We had called out aloud to you: 'Li Peng, come out.' We demanded a dialogue with the prime minister. Now, he is finally seeing us on the 18 May . So we are saying you have actually been late for one month.'

And then, he (Li Peng ) went on to tell us what he wanted to talked about.

But I said: 'Today we have invited you to come here and so we should decide what to talk about.'

I think such a firm expression of attitude was useful at the time in helping to create an equal status between the people's movement and the government.

By doing so we were able to create and maintain a certain pressure on the government.

Of course, such behaviour had never been seen in China before. Also, it was good for the international community to see it, particularly through television.

To tell the truth, I myself didn't really think so much at the time (about creating an impression for the world to see).

But the impression we gave - the attitude we had shown as representatives of such huge numbers of students - was that we had rebuked the high-handed and haughty attitude of the government.

But at the same time we had shown the seriousness of our attitude, which was neither haughty nor humble.

Although this meeting did not really achieve any concrete results, which were actually impossible to achieve, it had nevertheless achieved a certain significance - or a certain significance had emerged as a result of the meeting - which is: it is possible for people and the government to be on an equal footing.

This has long term and far-reaching significance for China. As for myself, having taken part in such an event and having played a small role in it has made me feel truly proud.

We will be publishing other interviews in the lead up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4. The first article in the series can be seen here:


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