Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD


Full text: Bao Tong's report on the Tiananmen crackdown

The following is part one of a document obtained by CNN and written by Bao Tong, a close aide to China's disgraced communist party chief Zhao Ziyang, describing the events leading up to the crackdown on student protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

September 25, 1989

Comrade Hu Yaobang died on April 15, soon after which the student demonstrations began. I was extremely worried. Comrade Xiaoping pointed out in his speech on April 25 that the overwhelming priority in China is stability - I completely agreed with his point; I also wanted to maintain stability and prevent turmoil. Specifically, I wanted to make an effort to reduce tensions and to avoid precipitating the tension into clashes. The People's Daily April 26th editorial, in my view, was harsh in language and lacked analysis and persuasiveness; I had my reservations about it.

On May 19 and 20, the Central Committee announced the decision to send the military into Beijing and declare martial law; in my heart, I believed we made a terribly wrong move; I was afraid that we would be trapped in a very difficult situation, "riding a tiger, hard to get-off." The Central Standing Committee collectively criticized Comrade Zhao Ziyang; I felt it was unfair.

A Central Committee leader directly criticized me for leaking state secrets; I felt wrongly accused. These thoughts of mine effected what I said and did during the events, resulting in my making a serious error: that is, politically not siding with the Central Committee. On May 28th, the Standing Committee decided to investigate me. I hereby give a chronological account of the following sixteen points to the Party:

1.1 - It was I who first informed Comrade Ziyang that the April 26th editorial had aggravated the confrontational mood of students and people who had previously taken a neutral position.

Comrade Ziyang returned to Beijing from North Korea on April 30th. As soon as he returned, I reported to him as follows: Students have been demonstrating in the streets since April 27th. There were so many of them that it was impossible to blockade; there were also lots of onlookers following them. Some government officials sympathized with the demonstrations. There were signs that the incident was escalating and expanding; there were a great number of students and others who resented the April 26th editorial and believed that it was hostile towards them.

I spoke about my opinion of the editorial: the positive side of the editorial was that it presented Comrade Xiaoping's thoughts that China must maintain stability and must not fall into turmoil. However, the editorial was written in a very harsh tone, did not adequately present reasons and lacked analysis. It also did not take into consideration the acceptance of people who were previously neutral. Since there were so many people who believed that the editorial was hostile to them, it was obvious that the editorial did not express its ideas clearly.

Comrade Ziyang did not express his own opinions at that time. After a few days, he said to me: "It seems that there are flaws in the editorial." Comrade Ziyang certainly formulated his opinions in his own way, but it was I who first reported to him about the editorial with this point of view.

1.2. - In my draft of the Youth Conference Speech, I did not include the text "anti-bourgeois liberalization" while summarizing the Central Committee leadership's opinions.

On April 30th, Comrade Ziyang sent the draft of this speech to various leaders for review and to solicit comments. Comrade Li Peng and Yao Yilin all proposed adding content regarding "anti-bourgeois liberalization." I expressed to Comrade Ziyang on May 2nd that the draft had already positively stated the "insistence on four basic principals;" there seemed nothing new to be added by mentioning anti-bourgeois liberalization. After my report, Comrade Ziyang agreed that the addition was not necessary.

The decision was made by Comrade Ziyang, but it was I who made the suggestion. The speech was broadcast on television that day, and I heard much positive feedback from comrades within the party, so I called Comrade Ai Zhisheng to ask him if he could arrange a re-broadcast of the speech. Comrade Ai Zhisheng said that the program was already full that day, but he would consider it for the next day. I said, "Tomorrow is May 4th; the students will be marching out on the streets. Could you arrange another broadcast the day after as well?" Comrade Ai Zhisheng said it would be impossible to broadcast it on three consecutive days. I made these phone calls myself; Comrade Ziyang did not know.

1.3. - I drafted Zhao Ziyang's Asian Development Bank Conference Speech.

On May 4th around 9 am in the morning, while in the car on the way to the hospital to visit Comrade Xiannian, Comrade Ziyang asked me to draft the speech which would be delivered in the meeting with delegates of the ADB at 1:30 pm. Many of the ideas, contents, expressions and important phrases were from his original dictation. The basic tone was different from the Standing Committee's collective decision, but I did not notice that point, since I completely agreed with his ideas. Therefore, I did not make any other suggestions for him to consider.

I returned to my office, drafted the text and sent it out at 12:30 pm. Comrade Ziyang personally pointed out a few places for revision. (I specifically remember a comment Comrade Ziyang made about a sentence at the end of my original text, "China will not fall into turmoil." He said: "This is not right; turmoil has already occurred; how can we say it 'will not'? We should change it to read: 'China will not fall into deep turmoil.'") At last, he told me that the draft was finalized, to make contact with the official press, and to tell them not to make any cuts.

After I returned to my office, I immediately made three calls. One was to tell Xinhua News Agency to publish the whole text without cuts; the second was to tell People's Daily to use Xinhua's article and put it on the front page; the third call was to the Ministry of Broadcasting and Television to ask them to broadcast the Xinhua article that evening; I also asked them to arrange to re-broadcast. (Since Comrade Ai Zhisheng told me the day before that the program schedule was full when I asked him to re-broadcast the Youth Conference Speech, I thought I should make this request in the afternoon, to give them enough time. But I did not ask them to re-broadcast for three consecutive days; that was a mistake made by confusing the May 3rd speech with the May 4th speech.)

Click here for the next section

See related sites about Asia
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top