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China students, workers protest outside communist party HQ

May 31, 1989

by Guy Dinmore on Peking – Reuters

Crowds of students and workers called for the downfall of Premier Li Peng in a noisy demonstration outside the Chinese government and Communist Party headquarters in Peking on Wednesday night, eye-witnesses said.

More than 1,000 people marched to the gates of the walled Zhongnanhai compound close to central Tiananmen Square which has been taken over for the last 19 days by thousands of students campaigning for democratic reforms.

Ignoring emergency regulations, the crowd chanted “Down with Li Peng” — the man who declared martial law in Peking on May 20 but has been unable to enforce it.

“Long live democracy,” they shouted.

A handful of troops guarding the ornate gateway took no action against the demonstrators but officials pushed away Western television crews, witnesses said.

Workers also celebrated the release of three activists of a newly-founded independent workers’ organisation which the authorities regard as illegal.

The three workers were said to have been seized in a late-night swoop on Monday. Their disappearance triggered marches to city police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry. Police never confirmed the arrests.

The government mounted counter-demonstrations but came nowhere near attracting the hundreds of thousands of people that have taken part in the biggest protest marches in Peking since the 1949 revolution.

Western reporters in the nearby town of Huairou — outside the martial law zone — watched as more than 1,000 people marched and chanted “Oppose chaos,” “Long live the Communist Party” and “Long live the People’s Liberation Army”.

Local officials in Daxing to the south of Peking shouted “Smash the traitorous bandits into little pieces” before what witnesses described as a passive crowd.

As darkness fell a sudden and violent storm swept Tiananmen Square, blowing down some of more than 100 tents erected in the heart of Chinese communism. A huge replica of New York’s Statue of Liberty built by art students opposite the portrait of Communist China’s founder, the late chairman Mao Tsetung, swayed in the wind but did not collapse. Official pronouncments in the state-run media showed the authorities were contemplating a tougher line against the students who have been officially described so far as “patriotic” but sometimes misguided. Reuters; May 31, 1989

“Immediately restore the solemn face of Tiananmen Square,” read one banner headline in the Peking Daily.

“When this is over they will definitely arrest me,” said Zhao Pinglu, a leader of the illegal workers’ association.

Eleven people have been arrested for joining a convoy of motorcyclists who roared through the city’s streets early this month in a novel “ride for democracy”. They were accused of disturbing the peace.

Some 150,000 troops remained poised around the city’s outskirts. State television showed two generals inspecting their troops but there was no indication of any immediate intention to move into Peking.

China’s official media still gave no hint of the whereabouts of Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who has not been seen in public for 12 days and is widely believed to have been ousted by top leader Deng Xiaoping and other hardliners in a power struggle.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen left on an official visit to Ecuador, Cuba and the United States. Diplomats described the trip as an effort to show a return to normality.

Reuters; May 31, 1989

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