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A Scholar's Recount of the Tiananmen Incident (1)

29 May 2009

The following is the excerpt of an online post penned by 彩云舒, and its English translation:

In 1989, I briefly returned to Beijing for a research project that was jointly carried out by China's Science Academy and an overseas company, and had an opportunity to observe the whole process of the Tiananmen Incident. Now I would like to recount the event as I witnessed and experienced.

一九八九年,由于我临时回国参加我们研究所与国外公司的合作开发项目,亲身经历了六.四事件并目睹了它前前后后. 在六四的今天,我只想写一写当年我所看到的和感受到的几个场面而已.

1, The Beginning

The street protest in Beijing was prompted by the mourning for the untimely death of former top CCP leader Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦) and the feeling of frustration over the widespread corruption during the reform and modernization progress that saw many high officials abused their positions by gaining huge profit through their privately owned companies [which included Zhao Dajun, the son of Hu Yaobang's successor Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) who later unscrupulously portrayed himself as China's democracy pioneer in his recently published memoir - admin]. However, after undergoing ten chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution, the collective mood in China at the time was to maintain a stable political environment in order to reform economy and raise living standards. Therefore in the beginning it was a movement neither initiated by students nor about democracy.

My research institute is situated in Zhongguancun (中关村) which is the base camp for China's Science Academy and newly established private high tech companies [later known as China's Silicon Valley - admin]. During those days, the main talking point in every office was about the surrounding private companies that used their government connections to make a massive profits by selling state-owned assets in the name of economic system reform. No one organized rally, but anybody could easily find the details of an impending march including the time and the start point from a note stuck on the front door of each office. When that day came, everyone in the Academy, from the members of the national Academic Committee, the deans of the research institutes, the PhD candidates who usually cared about nothing but their projects, to staff in attached workshops, chefs in attached canteens and teachers in attached kindergartens. All coaches were running fully packed, and all bicycles had someone sitting on the rear racks.

Ever since I was a Little Red Guard (红小兵, an official youth organisation during the middle and later stages of the Cultural Revolution for the students in primary and high schools), I had participated in numerous rallies in the Tiananmen Square, but this time the things were quite different: there were no organisers, no pre-prepared banners and no appointed individuals to lead slogan shouting. In fact, anyone in the assembly could shout any slogan as he so wished and the everybody would just echo by repeating the phrases. I remember the most frequently used slogans were "Crack down on corrupted officials" and "Keep on reform", with no mention of the so-called democracy. The participants were across all walks of life: from government departments and organisations, state-run enterprises, cultural and arts sectors, universities and colleges, research institutes, and the factories located in Beijing's outskirts. The super broad way of Changan Avenue (天安门) was so crowded that even the pedestrian paths were throng with the marchers. I'd never seen a rally joined by so many people in my life, and I believe by then most people in the demonstration felt strongly that after years of political turmoil, we wanted to leave the politics behind and just to focus on the economy, and by following that direction, we saw great new hope for China.


我记得,当时的起因是全国人民悼念胡耀邦的同时,对社会上贪污腐化现象强烈不满, 尤其是在改革开放中对那些高层领导利用手中的特权谋暴利办公司极为反感和愤恨,于是从悼念胡耀邦的纪念活动,发展到反贪官,反腐蚀的全国性的群众运动.在当时的历史情况下,经历了十年动乱后, 搞好改革开放是全国人民的心声,在当时的中国,人民还没有来得及意识到要求民主的地步,而且事件的开始是全国人民的自发活动.事件的开始来看,它不是什么学生运动民主运动.

我们研究所在中关村,在那里有许多研究所和当时成立不久的公司. 记得在全国上下群情激昂的几天里,在每个办公室里人们议论的主要题目就是对中关村的一些公司如何利用自己的关系搞官倒来发泄不满.在参加游行的那天,所里没有人领导,只可以看到各个研究室的门上贴着小纸条,写着如果愿意参加游行的话,在什么时间什么地点集合.那一天,从院里的学部委员,研究所所长到所办工厂的工人和食堂的大师傅,从所里的平时只专心业务的博士生到所幼儿园的阿姨们都自发地参加了, 出发的人们把所里的几辆班车挤得满满的, 骑自行车去的后面都带着人.

从我还是个红小兵的时候起,我就开始到天安门参加各种的游行活动了,可这次比以往都不同,没有组织,没有高举什么写好的大标语,没有固定的人带着高呼口号.在队伍中,是谁愿意带领喊谁就喊,大家就跟着这个人喊,喊的口号都是发自每个人的内心,我记得当时我们喊的口号是"打倒贪官","继承胡耀邦的遗志把改革开放进行到底"什么的,根本没有人喊什么要求民主之类的口号. 那天,北京的各企业,各文化部门,各大专院校,各研究部门,许多工厂,甚至郊区的工厂的人们都赶来参加了游行.通往天安门那宽宽的长安街上, 由于满是行走的游行的人,显得很狭窄了,就连两旁的便道都走着游行的队伍,在这之前,我从没看到过这样的盛况空前的游行场面.我相信,每个参加游行的人都和我一样,我们在搞了多年的政治运动后,终于迎来了国家的改革开放,要把经济搞上去,大家看到了中国的春天和希望.

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Lunar 5th May, the Dragon Boat Festival


- by Quyuan

For over 2,000 years, the fifth day in lunar fifth month has been celebrated as China's unique Dragon Boat Festival that observes the memory of great Chinese poet Quyuan (屈原, 339BC - 278BC), the native of today's Hubei Province, who though was reduced to live in forced exile never lost his love for his land and people.

屈原虽流放,眷顾楚国,系心怀王,不忘欲反,冀幸君之 一悟、俗之一改也。其存君兴国,而欲反复之,一篇之中,三致志焉。

-- by greatest Chinese historian Sima Qian 司马迁

On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, kids in Quyuan's native land chant the poet's famous poem Lisao the Song of Exile (《离骚》)

(Source of info/photo: 程敏 摄,

On the day of the Dragon Boat festival, a thousand people, including students, farmers and factory workers as well as tourists from Nepal, Thailand, the United States and Canada, gather on a square in Chengdu and recite Lisao.

Nowadays, Duanwu the Dragon Boat Festival has also been celebrated in foreign countries, such as South Korea that even makes it one of its major national festivals.

(Source of info/photo:

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