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his statement of student demands the government endorsed were
democracy and freedom of expression.
May 4, 1989, was the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement,
and Beida students were well aware of their university's heritage of
protest movements. (The students also noted that 1989 was the 200th
anniversary of the French Revolution and its principles of liberty,
equality, and fraternity.) Determined to make something of the anni-
versary, 200,000 students marched to Tiananmen Square and
demanded that the government recognize the student movement
as patriotic and not antigovernmental. At their protest rally they pre-
sented a “New May Fourth Declaration” demanding democracy in
the universities and in the Chinese political system. Some placards
at this and other rallies said simply “Hello, Mr. Democracy” (De
Xiansheng, ni hao). People with even a minimal knowledge of Chinese
history recognized immediately the comparison the students were
making between themselves and their May Fourth-era predecessors.
The student protestors were so distressed with the government's
refusal to open any kind of dialogue with them that, on May 13,
3,000 of them started a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. They
reiterated their demands that a government dialogue with them be
broadcast live on national television. On May 15, 800,000 people vis-
ited Tiananmen Square to show support for the hunger-striking stu-
dents and their demands. By May 16, it was becoming quite apparent
to the government that there was massive popular support for the stu-
dents' demands, and the old Communists became gravely frightened
for their own positions and safety. On May 17, Deng and a selected
few senior party members held a meeting to decide what to do about
the burgeoning popular movement against them. Zhao Ziyang recalls
the substance of this meeting in his political memoirs, published with-
out the Chinese communists' approval in 2009:
On the 17th, I phoned to request to see Deng. Later, a member of Deng's
staff asked me to go to Deng Xiaoping's home in the afternoon for a
meeting. All the members of the Politburo Standing Committee plus
[Yang] Shangkun were already there. At the time, Wan Li, who would
have attended, was still abroad. Since I had asked for a personal meeting
with Deng, only to have Deng call for a full Standing Committee meet-
ing at his home, I realized that things had already taken a bad turn.
First, I expressed my views, roughly as follows:
The situation with the student demonstrations has worsened and has
grown extremely grave. Students, teachers, journalists, scholars, and
even some government staff have taken to the streets in protest. Today,
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