Kong Qingdong on the Tiananmen Incident (English Translation)

Q: As we all know, you took part in the 1989 Student Movement. What was your position within the movement, and how did you gain that position?

A: There were a number of stages, it all began that year on the 15th of April with Hu Yaobang‘s passing. The students living in my dormitory wrote a poster commemorating Comrade Hu. It was all very positive, but similar to making a post on the internet today it let to endless responses to our original poster. In less than an hour the triangle in the center of campus at Beida¹ was covered in all kinds of posters. We had no idea that our poster would lead to such a chain reaction. From the 15th of April onward for the next ten days or so I was in no way a student leader. I was no different from other students, marching together, occasionally offering suggestions, coming up with slogans, offering advice, like what to do if you run into the police or the PLA. Because I was a graduate student, I’d read a lot of history and had a decent grasp on how to deal with these kinds of questions. In the process of dealing with these issues students probably began to view me as a reliable figure. In the early days, organizationally we were all over the place, with plenty of jostling for power among us, every few days one person would replace another. It was in this way that on the 25th of April I was among those chosen to head the Preparatory Committee². While in this position there arose many unforeseen circumstances. I held this position until the start of May. I then returned to my original position. I still enthusiastically took part in the movement, helping other students with planning but my views on the direction of the movement became more and more divergent from other students, because I believed that the struggle for democracy in China should base itself on the actual conditions in the country and be built by the Chinese people. I was particularly opposed to intervention by foreign powers which bring its own unpredictable complications and consequences. At the time I wasn’t implying that the US were still trying to subjugate us, but since my childhood education I’ve thought that it was unlikely that any country would want to help China establish democracy for entirely noble, selfless reasons. But my opinion alone wasn’t enough to convince the majority of students in the movement, especially the other student leaders. So I watched on as things headed irreversibly toward a tragic ending.

Q: When working with the Preparatory Committee you would’ve come into contact with the other student leaders. Can you talk a little about them? Do you still remember them?

A. Of course I still remember, because I wrote a diary that year, I’m quite conscientious in that way. Today, through the media we’re all familiar with these student leaders, the coverage over the years has turned them into celebrities. In fact, there were a lot of student leaders at the time but they’ve all been forgotten. International public opinion is dictated by America so when someone thinks about June 4th they picture Wang Dan, Chai Ling, Wu’erkaixi. Of course they also played an important role but I’d first like to say that many students took part in and helped organize the movement. Also, this movement didn’t necessarily begin in 1989, before that, there were already demonstrations, protests, democracy etc. of this sort among students. I was already quite familiar with Wang Dan, he’s gone through so many changes³. In my opinion, before June 4th he was mostly rational, no matter what position he took, his attitude was rational. I read some of the essays he wrote in the Nineties, I thought he was still a relatively moderate figure in Pro-Democracy movement. He wasn’t exactly toeing the line of the US government, but he’d change, he slowly evolved in that direction. For example, nowadays he’s gone to Taiwan to take part in movements there, I don’t know much about his background… perhaps this change is related to his environment, his surroundings, his personal relationships etc.

The other student leaders, some were more moderate than him, those more moderate than him probably weren’t as well received by the Americans. For example, my friends and I were mostly graduate students. We were more well-read, we had a more rational view of the situation. We didn’t receive the same backing as the likes of Wang Dan. There were also other students who were more radical than Wang Dan, such as Chai Ling, Wu’erkaixi, who were representative of the more radical position. Chai Ling was an extremely passionate individual, particularly good at stirring up crowds and playing the sympathy card. Actually, they had zero independent thought or insight, they blindly let the student movement develop in such a way that led irreversibly down a path to tragedy. Because the students back then had nothing new to say, their speech resembled that of the Cultural Revolution. Chai Ling was good at declaring, amid tears, that “China is our nation, the people are our people”, “If we don’t care who will? If we don’t do it, who will?”, this was the language of the Cultural Revolution, not a word of difference. But this kind of provocation was effective because the students were very innocent, full of patriotic sentiment, they listened to anyone who seemed patriotic. I also came into contact a few times with Wu’erkaixi, he was a student at what is now called the Minzu University of China, a school for ethnic minorities. He later went onto Beijing Normal University, according to what classmates have said, he wasn’t a good student. But he had a fighting spirit and courageously came forward to organize student demonstrations. He was also a very handsome guy so he possessed a certain amount of prestige within the movement. Wu’erkaixi also developed along a certain trajectory. In the beginning I thought he was just a simple student, willing to struggle. But it seems one day they had an election at Beijing Normal University in which he lost the vote⁴. That evening he ran to me sobbing “what am I supposed to do? I’ve already been beaten…” I comforted him saying “Don’t worry about it, you have to believe that you still have the respect of the masses, you have to think about how you earned that respect in the first place. You shouldn’t care about the outcome of one election. You still have your connections, right? You mobilize your people, dorm by dorm you mobilize and regather your strength. You just have to work hard in this way and the students will still accept you.” At that time he [Wang Dan] was quite innocent, after going to America, like Chai Ling and Wu’erkaixi, they all, I think, had hidden troubles. It’s difficult for people to survive in a foreign environment. His new environment ensured that he’d adopt a more radical political position, particularly after the Nineties when the conditions in China underwent massive changes. While many of the things they criticized back then still exist today, other circumstances are no longer the same. Even today some still mock China for its technological backwardness, saying “In Japan we’re so advanced, when you return home you just need to stamp your feet for the lights to come on.” They show off in this kind of way, riling up people online. They don’t understand that much has changed in China, there are still some who say “China has no elections”. There are elections all over China. The issue with democracy in China isn’t a shortage of elections but a question of the process. Lots of foreigners, regardless whether they stand for good or evil, many of the criticisms and accusations they level at China have no connection to the reality of China today, so they’re incapable of gaining the support of the Chinese public. Nor do the American government give them more backing, so they’re circumstances are more and more difficult, more and more pitiable.

Q. I’ve previously interviewed Feng Congde, at that time he was in Hong Kong publishing a book, in that book he wondered whether you and Shen Tong were party members embedded within the student movement. What’s your response to this?

A. This was a statement of his was from years back. First of all, his claims are neither back by evidence or logic, it’s just personal conjecture. Actually, I think Feng Congde has some serious issues, I remember very clearly the first time he was elected as one of the leaders of the Preparatory Committee, he made a speech on Beida’s May Fourth sports field. What did he say? He said “Finally Beida has a place where my voice can be heard!”, I think he also was a graduate student, I’m not sure how a graduate student could have spoke in such a nutty way. It was as if that his ego has been suppressed for some time. In my estimation, he was for one, extremely passionate, and two, probably the most irrational of the students. His talk was incoherent. His paranoia and incoherence were common knowledge. In his essays he talked about a lot of things, all of it baseless.

In fact, at the time of the protest movement, I heard that Feng Congde and others were already in close contact with the American embassy⁵. Among them some had already obtained American passports. This was a fundamental disagreement I had with the direction the movement was taking. The students leaders associating with foreign powers is something I absolutely disagreed with.

Q. At that time they already had American passports?

A. Yeah.

Q. Who arranged their passports? How do you know? They told you? Did anyone recommend that you get a US passport?

Kong: Who specifically, I don’t know. Speaking about it today, it seems quite rational. Actually the way I grew up, I was also quite an innocent person. The way I see it, people can sit on the fence, if you do you wouldn’t get involved in such a movement. In every movement you have the Xiaoyao Faction, during the Cultural Revolution, they neither sided with the left or the right. If you want to act like someone in the Xiaoyao Faction, that’s fine, but when you do something you ought to do it wholeheartedly, if you’re taking parting in the student movement, you’d act out of patriotism regardless of personal danger. If you were a student leader you’d lead at the front. That was my attitude. If you didn’t want to do that you could go back to your books. One day at the Preparatory Committee I saw two students in charge of propaganda, both were undergraduates, they were mimeographing things, one of them saw me and said: “Kong, have you nabbed a passport yet?”, “What passport?”, “Feng Congde, Chai Ling, they’ve both got American passports.” I didn’t know anything about this, as I listened I got furious. My anger wasn’t jealousy, because I’ve never thought going to America would be a good thing, my place is in China, in China I wanted to study hard and help build the country. At that time we wanted to implement the Four Modernizations, which at the time was the most exciting prospect. I never wanted to pass the TOEFL and go wash dishes in America. I was pretty mad about this passport thing. Afterwards I asked about it again but they didn’t say much. Later on I spoke about this with Shen Tong and Wang Chiying, I said “The struggle for democracy in China must rely on the Chinese people, it can’t depend on foreign powers.”There’s a reason I think this, at the time I came into contact with many foreign reporters, quite early on I noticed how biased they were. I can’t say for sure that the ones I met were spies but in my estimation some foreign journalists were. For one, when they interviewed me, reporters from Hong Kong, America, Japan, they didn’t publish my words as they were said, they distorted and embellished. Number two, during the interview they tried to encourage me to criticize the party, to praise America. They asked me whether or not I wanted to go to America and experience true freedom and democracy. It was embarrassing but at the time my thinking wasn’t so clear, all I knew was that it was an incredibly complex situation, so what the government had been saying wasn’t totally without merit. I wasn’t fond of the way the forceful way the government spoke, but what they were actually saying, “This is a complex situation, there are certain forces behind the scenes sowing discord”, this was true. But due to the way the government was putting across its message it could never be accepted by the students.

Q. At the time many people provided the students with aid, you were a student leader, did you see what kind of aid? Where did it all come from?

A. There was a lot of aid, primarily of three kinds: first there was the aid donated little by little from the public, second was the organized aid coming from various organizations in society, and then there was aid from overseas organizations. The aid itself can be divided into different groups: first there was food and drink, because many students were spending all today at demonstrations, which later developed into the hunger strikes, food was a large part of the aid. Some of the food came from individual sellers and some came from organizations. A lot of the other aid was cultural propaganda items, like pens and paper, photocopiers, two-way radios – students saw these being used in movies, like the most advanced cell phones today, people wanted to get their hands on them. Some of the student leaders had them, I remember the first time I was at a demonstration our picket captain had one, he let me use it for a while. There were also tents of varying sizes and quality. And, as well as what I’ve just mentioned, individuals also got some of their own provisions from supermarkets, local stores etc., there was both normal everyday products, as well as high-end and foreign imports like Coca Cola. It’s difficult to estimate just how much came in, particularly the overseas aid. Anyway, including the basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter – and everything needed for political activities, you name it, they had it. You could even say there was an excess of aid in the latter period, even though I was no longer serving as a leader, I still went to the square and saw piles and piles of t-shirts, soda cans, bread etc. lying there exposed to the elements. These donations were hard to quantify, especially the money⁶. I never saw this money but according to investigations afterwards, a lot of student leaders received money, probably through private channels.

Q. Chai Ling once mentioned in an interview that “Unless we overthrow this inhumane government, our country will have no hope“. Do you think this aligns with the original intentions of the student movement and its demands for democracy?

A. From the outset, the movement didn’t oppose the government and did not intend to overthrow it⁷. Nor did it claim the government had no humanity. The original issue was the extent of democracy. Everyone wanted to expand democracy. But you can’t associate democracy with capitalism. Doesn’t socialism require democracy? Do you really need capitalism to have democracy? What everyone wanted was to expand democratic socialism, much like the Four Great Freedoms of the Cultural Revolution: the freedom to speak freely and express one’s views, the freedom to debate issues and the freedom to display big characters posters. In fact, students managed with their own efforts to cover the campuses in posters, any topic was okay to discuss. Did we not already achieve these freedoms? What students wanted was for the government to affirm their right to enjoy these freedoms, to confirm that these posters were legal, and not to tell them afterwards that it was illegal and to punish them. Students were afraid of this. They weren’t seeking to overthrow the government, I remember taking part in the April 27 Demonstrations, leading students around so they wouldn’t take a wrong turn, we intentionally erected a “Protect the Communist Party” banner. Of course not all student leaders were happy about this, opinions varied but we won out in the end. I agreed to organize the demonstrations so long as we use the slogan “Support the CCP, protect the CCP” in order to make the party affirm that our student movement was a patriotic one, a legal one. We achieved our objective by showing it was possible to create a completely peaceful demonstration. Later Chai Ling and others lead the movement to a bloody end. In the latter stage there was a change in direction, after the hunger strikes deteriorated. The hunger strike at first was very pure and very genuine, but later on when it surpassed people’s physiological limits, it became a political stalemate. The media would constantly show how students were fainting and being taken away by ambulances, it made a huge impression internationally, it seemed like “the Chinese government are inhumane, they don’t care about the hunger strikers”, this conclusion played right into the hands of the likes of Chai Ling. They were hoping for bloodshed so they themselves could become famous global human rights figures. Back then, I was enraged by this. I was there at the first demonstration in May, afterwards on the square I told people “you can’t exchange the blood of students for a Green Card”. My words were astute but history isn’t based on my will. The situation was this: some students were killed, while others become international celebrities. An absurd chapter of history.

Q. Students refused to withdraw from the square⁸, and persisted in the hunger strike. What were the implications of this?

A. At first I helped organized the hunger strike dialogue group. This group originally was able to function in a constructive manner and the government was willing to enter into a dialogue with students. But some student leaders thought that they weren’t genuine, so they refused to continue talks. They demanded that the government submit to all of the students’ demands. We should know that in political negotiations one side can’t concede entirely to the other side’s demands. Total rejection of dialogue is tantamount to taking things to the next level. At first, the hunger strikes had an explicit purpose: if the government rejected the students’ demands, they’d go on hunger strike. After a few days of the hunger strike no one brought it up anymore. Regardless of what the government did or said they were automatically in the wrong, so in the end this resulted in one long, endless hunger strike, one without a clear objective. Did that objective not become that they wouldn’t eat again until the Communist Party were removed from power? So, eventually the hunger strikers were incapable of maintaining the support of the students. Serious hunger strikers gradually decreased. In fact, the hunger strikers began eating and drinking inside the tents, coming out every so often to keep up the pretense of fasting. Of course we said this is fine but for what end? Without purpose it becomes a farce and the genuine hunger strikers suffer.

Q. Chai Ling said that “only when the Square is awash with blood will the people of China open their eyes”. Are we able to understand her logic as using the student movement, from the protests to the hunger strikes, as a way of overthrowing the state, which resulted in “rivers of blood”. Can we say that this bloody event was premeditated, carefully planned?

A. “Carefully planned” would be excessive. No one can control history, things aren’t always meticulously designed, but it’s perfectly reasonable to say it was premeditated, because we distinctly felt there were several different forces operating within the movement that all hoped that this the movement would blow up in such a way. They were opposed to genuine negotiations between the students and the government. We discovered that whether they were part of the government or the student movement or they were from overseas, all groups have these sorts of people, and they united in their hopes that the negotiations would not go smoothly. From the start there were those who were opposed to compromise, they wanted the negotiations to break down. This “rivers of blood” was exaggerated by Voice of America, there was regrettable bloodshed but no rivers of blood⁹. But speaking as a Communist Party member, even one death would be regrettable.

Q. Besides Chai Ling’s talk of bloodshed, did any of the other student leaders you were acquainted with ever share such views.

A. I remember Wang Dan having the same idea, as I said before he was a rational person but he also rationalized the need for bloodshed, to intensify contradictions until there was a rupture. [Citation?] Chai Ling’s words are more emotional but Wang Dan also spoke in this way. Putting both their words together makes me wonder whether or not there were powerful forces in the background who intended to make the differences between the students and the government irreconcilable, to push the government toward the precipice and force a violent conclusion. Who would this benefit? The democratic gains made up to that point would have all been for nothing. This was my assessment at the time, so I disagree with the logic that without bloodshed nothing could be done. For example, Wang Dan has said “if there’s no bloodshed what will we do?”. [Citation?] So I ask, who is this “we”? A handful of student leaders? Do you isolate your own interests from the whole body of students? Did you not see who was marching and chanting, arm in arm, breaking through police lines? It was the masses of ordinary students, first year, second year undergraduates. You senior students, graduate students, in the background scheming and issuing commands, all day thinking about your own private interests. This doesn’t sit well with one’s conscience. In history which political parties didn’t act like this, cutting themselves off from the interests of the masses. With this in mind, I think, one element, in addition to the other forces working behind the scenes, was the immaturity of the individual student. They were the tools of others.

Q. Before June the 4th, many students leaders including you, encouraged everyone to leave the square, but Chai Ling and others encouraged them to stay. How did this clash of opinions arise?

A. In the latter stages of the movement, this was no longer an internal conflict among the students, the disagreements among students, the strategic differences, had become a confrontation between the two political powers about the direction of the movement. In fact there had always been differences of opinion within the movement, some were more moderate, others more radical. Even a single student might one day be radical and the next more moderate depending on the situation. This is perfectly normal, but we found that there was one group that without fail advocated radicalism, hoping to create bloodshed. They would smear other groups, accusing them of being government agents. They were so extreme, they had an unwavering purpose. The students themselves were more casual, they were never constrained by this kind of uniform discipline. Just after the start of the hunger strikes, some students like myself and my classmates, thought that our objective had already been achieved. We thought we’d already exposed the errors of the government, and the government had already agreed to negotiate with us to a certain degree. We needed to continue communication with the government, hoping that the government would correct their non-democratic aspects. But other forces repeatedly undermined these negotiations. Whatever the government said, none of it could be good. Driving the government to the precipice, and them tipping them over the edge, forcing the government to awake like a lion. This power absolutely existed. Before this, I pleaded repeatedly that the students should withdraw, through big character posters, through the speeches I made. The best opportunity was on the 15th of May when Gorbachev was to visit Beijing. I was in the square at the time telling people “this is our last chance”. The government wanted to use the square to receive Gorbachev, this was a big deal for them, they wanted a big ceremony. If we, the students, were “cultured and civilized” we’d understand the government, we’d be particularly magnanimous, “since you want to receive guests, we’ll leave the square so you can roll out the red carpet for Gorbachev”. Both sides would come out looking good. We can take the high road and return to campus and continue our struggle there. We thought that this was a great opportunity. Many students agreed, if I recall Wang Dan also agreed. But every time we’d manage to convince the majority of the students, Chai Ling and others would wail and screech about how if we withdraw the movement would be finished and we’d all be in for it. These melodramatic speeches managed to persuade people to stay. Actually, in terms of effectiveness, the student movement was already a spent force by the last weeks of May. Even though they convinced some to stay in the square, the majority of students had already returned to campus. Although it seemed like there were many on the square, these weren’t the students of Beijing, the students were on campus, towards the end of May the weather was already hot. Those on the square were mostly tourists and students from out of town, they didn’t know any students on campus, so they couldn’t find any dormitories to stay at. The students staying at the dormitories had food, drink, all kinds of provisions. The square become more and more of a mess, but some core members of the movement remained there in the tents, keeping the square in a state of chaos. If we look at the so-called “regime change” that happened in Ukraine and other nations in Eastern Europe, the prelude is always that someone provokes conflict between the government and the people, bringing about a bloody event that then results in large scale conflict. Returning to 1989, on the few days leading up to the 3rd of June, we found that there were some people, who didn’t understand the situation, fighting with the PLA, inciting conflict among soldiers. A person like me who has studied history can see clearly what’s going on, when we were little we watched movies like Guerrillas on the Plain. In the movie the Eighth Route Army opens fire on both the devils and traitors and then retreats, letting the devils and the traitors to fight among themselves. This is a commonly used trick in warfare. Someone who hits people then ducks and runs, what kind of person is that? Definitely someone with a particular political background. They hoped to provoke the students on one side and the soldiers on the other, hit some students over here, steal some guns over there, creating a perfect excuse for bloodshed. The PLA soldiers had been stuck in their vehicles for days without any valid intel, while the students only received one-sided info, all pro-American propaganda. So the bloody outcome may have come about in this way.

Q. As an organizer and participant, how do you assess what happened?

A. I think what happened that year can be assessed in the same way as other mass movements, like the Cultural Revolution, you have to divide it into stages. In the beginning it was a patriotic movement of a socialist nature. The participants, with the majority being students, were patriotic, pro-CCP and pro-socialist. They wanted our socialism to rid itself of corrupt elements through the process of reform, they wanted mass democracy. I think the main ambitions of the movement were good, but within it, from insidious forces, from the government’s poor handling of events, their information wasn’t accurate, and this resulted in misjudgment. There was also the immaturity of the students. The outcome doesn’t change the fundamental character of the movement. All we can say is that it was exploited by hostile forces at home and abroad.

Q. You just mentioned that the students were taken advantage of, what about the student leaders? Did anyone behind the scenes seek personal gain out of this?

A. Definitely, the students were taken advantage of to a large extent through the student leaders, this occurred in the early stage through all kinds of unhealthy ideological trends. As things developed the student leaders had a lot of influence, these student leaders thought they were the masters of their own thinking, but among the student leaders, some were well educated, others less so. Some were probably brainwashed, others were bought out. Regarding the question of the hunger strike, I was moved by the oaths taken by the hunger strike volunteers on the Beida Students Autonomous Association Broadcast Station, I thought, there’s no issue with these students, they really are patriots, willing to risk starvation for the cause of democracy. I was so moved by this that it makes me loathe even more those who took advantage of them. All we can say is that by improving our own character and our own political accomplishments, we can avoid being taken advantage of, especially those influential among students, if you think you’re the sort of person that others listen to, then you ought to self-examine, are you being taken advantage of by certain forces? I also want to persuade the so-called hostile forces, hostile forces always want to stir up trouble in China, hoping that the different elements in Chinese society become more divided. They hate it when they aren’t all at war with each other. But I want to ask them, how do you benefit from creating chaos in China? For example, America, Europe, today most of their daily necessities are made in China, they actually benefit greatly from the peaceful development of China. If they succeed in creating chaos in China, if the Communist Party collapses, if China is split up or descends into a civil war, will America and Europe remain as comfortably peaceful as they are today? Sometimes I wonder whether these so-called hostile forces aren’t shooting themselves in the foot. Today, more and more Chinese people are waking up. If you’re patriotic and want to advance the cause of democracy, how should you go about it? Should you plunge China into chaos? The Chinese people are increasingly rejecting this strategy. Especially since 2008, after the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese want to realize the Chinese Dream. We think America is fine, the overseas democracy activists are also fine, but they should operate according to the conditions of this new century and this new stage in history, and think about the future development of mankind. We have to acknowledge that regardless of whether China and America still have major human rights problems, social progress issues, how should we resolve them? Everyone needs to sit down together at the same table and discuss things cordially, calmly, instead of scheming and plotting. Of course I might be speaking in vain, but we intellectuals are like that, even if we’re speaking in vain we still need to speak out.

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Notes

1. Known for its liberal tradition and encouragement of progressive thought, Beida had been at the center of the country’s political debates and was considered the cradle of democracy. In particular, the “Triangle,” a jumble of bulletin boards erected to form three sides at a point in the center of the campus, historically had been a symbolic space for free expression. Throughout the course of the 1989 movement, the Triangle became a marketplace for information where leaflets were often distributed.

Rowena Xiaoqing He – Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China

2. Shen Tong: “…Wang Dan and I were elected during the April 25 election, I didn’t even participate in the election because I felt that the students’ enthusiasm would not last for long. Also, I thought that if we considered ourselves as student leaders, our biggest task and responsibility was to try to bring about a good ending—not to get too many students into trouble. So I didn’t want to be elected. But according to the rules, candidates could be self-nominated or nominated by others, so I was elected anyway.”

– Rowena Xiaoqing He – Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China

“Beijing University was the first educational establishment to set up a preparatory committee [for the establishment of an] autonomous student organization. Following the example of Beijing University, all other important institutes in Beijing modeled themselves on it and set up their own autonomous student organizations or preparatory committees, challenging the existing student organizations, which are controlled by the Party, the government, and the school authorities. Of all the institutes, Beijing Normal University was the only one that succeeded in using the method of election through voting; the fact that the members of their autonomous student organisation were actually elected was a pioneering feat. The voting took place on 24 April, and eighty percent of the students voted to set up an autonomous student organization. Wu’erkaixi was elected Chairman; other members of the Standing Committee were Liang Er, Cheng Zhen, Peng Tao, Zhang Jun and Zhao Gang”
– The 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement: Student Organizations and Strategies, in China Information [1990]

3. In Shen Tong’s memoir Almost a Revolution he mentions “a man from Anhui and four others” who travelled the country making contacts, intending to create a mass movement that would “get rid of Deng Xiaoping”. Shen Tong said he had a “a powerful effect on Wang Dan and me” but “I wasn’t at all prepared to talk about a new government. My friends and I had been talking about social reforms, but we believed they would have to happen over years, or even decades. This man from Anhui was already designing a government he believed would come together soon. I was actually frightened by how radical he was.”

4. “If the students’ dissatisfaction was intense, student leaders had also sometimes to step down; for example, [Autonomous Students Union of Beijing Universities] ASUBU’s Zhou Yongjun and Wu’er Kaixi were dismissed because they had caused dissatisfaction among their fellow students by making wrong decisions”
– The 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement: Student Organizations and Strategies, in China Information [1990]

5. From Philip J. Cunningham’s Tiananmen Moon, Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989

On Chai Ling: “If she went to the US embassy I was afraid she would become a political pawn in US-China relations. I didn’t think that the British embassy would be any better. Worse yet, what if it was a trap? […] Something about her embassy escape plans troubled me. Getting mixed up with foreign intelligence agencies was a slippery slope if there ever was one. Just the thought of it depressed me.”

On Feng Congde: “Dare I tell him in front of the others that his wife is hightailing it to the train station? Does he know about the embassy deal she whispered to me about?”

6. “…a great deal of the donations – especially private ones – were handed straight to individual student leaders. Among those who personally accepted donations are Wu’erkaixi, Zhou Yongjun, Yang Huhui, Chai Ling and Feng Congde. There was no control whatsoever on how these donations were handled, and we have only the students’ word as to the question whether they were used for the student movement or not.”
The 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement: Student Organizations and Strategies, in China Information [1990]

“We established a rule that whenever we spent any money, even if it was to buy sodas, it had to be reported to the accountants, with receipts”
– Shen Tong – Almost a Revolution

7. Wang Dan: “I think my memories of society prior to 1989 are positive. And it was because of my positive attitude that I participated in the student movement. I didn’t even have a negative impression of the CCP. I just thought that our country should have freedom and democracy, and I hoped that we could achieve it. So I participated in the 1989 movement not because of hatred, but because of hope. This is an important point, which might have been mistaken by outsiders. We weren’t trying to overthrow the government (in 1989). We wanted to improve it.”
Rowena Xiaoqing He – Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China

8. Entry dated May 13: “…some intellectuals and I asked Wang Dan and Wu’erkaixi whether they thought it was possible to get the hunger strikers to leave the square by Monday [the 15th]. They said it was, unless Chai Ling opposed the idea.”
– Shen Tong – Almost a Revolution

“The Autonomous Students Union of Beijing Universities attitude in this matter changed a number of times. Initially, they were in favor of withdrawal, and after having made vain efforts to [persuade the students] on 23 May, they left on their own accord and returned to Beijing University. However, during the 29 May ASUBU Standing Committee meeting, it was decided that the peaceful sit-in in the Square should resolutely be continued. The reason for this was that the Square had already become the focus of world attention, and the symbol for the Chinese people’s fight for democracy.

As for people like Chai Ling, Feng Congde, and Li Lu, and other members of the HG and PT Headquarters, superficially they seemed quite firmly opposed to withdrawal, and to have associated their own survival or demise with that of the entire Square, but their attitude was actually very ambiguous. Facts show that there was not one single organization which was capable of both taking a decision on when to withdraw and implementing such a decision. At one moment, the students tried to settle the matter by using the “big democracy” method, according to which each of the 300 instututes in the Square sent a representative to vote. However, not only did more than half the voters not approve of withdrawal, they even demanded that more radical actions be taken.

However, at a moment when the students had not yet succeeded in talking through the implications of a withdrawal, students from outside Beijing arrived in the capital bursting with eagerness [to join in]. In order to let them understand and approve the movement’s long-term strategy, it would have been necessary to hold discussions and use persuasion. It would have been best to let every student in the Square know exactly what were the advantages and disadvantages [of any decision]. But this was not accomplished by the student leaders. Previously, the idea had been raised to set up a “democratic salon” in the Square, but even this never materialized. Consequently, the decision not to withdraw stemmed from emotion rather than from reason.”
– The 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement: Student Organizations and Strategies, in China Information [1990]

Entry dated May 21: “I thought we should consider ourselves victorious and leave the square, ending the movement on a high note […] We decided to take a poll to determine what we would do. In the end, I thought the majority had decided, and I walked away from the meeting and headed back to Beida, thinking that we would begin pulling out that day and that the focus of the movement would shift back to the campuses, which would be the start of the second stage. But that never happened. Chai Ling and her group were among the minority who felt that we should stay, so later Li Lu called another meeting with about three hundred different student leaders, most of whom were from other cities and didn’t have an understanding of and perspective on the whole movement. A new majority decided to remain in the square.”
– Shen Tong – Almost a Revolution

9. It seems odd that he’d quibble over the term “rivers of blood” considering his comments elsewhere, e.g. in 2014, Kong Qingdong’s Weibo account was deleted after he had an exchange with another user who claimed to have been part of the security forces deployed during the crackdown and argued that Beijing had no choice but to dispatch troops in order to control chaos. Kong replied that “There were no riots at all. You all opened fire on the masses and bloodily gunned them down, then tried to frame them after the fact. Can you name one student who started the rioting?” Kong went on to decry the deaths of “hundreds of patriotic citizens” [asiaone.com]

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