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

The following is part two 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.

I recommended an article to be published in the "Draft Report on Internal Situation."

In early May, the magazine "Ling Xun" published an article by Comrade He Xin. I have now forgotten the title, but I do remember the content (only according to my memory, not the exact language of comrade He Xin's original text) which declared that during the modernization process of a developing country, the state must properly deal with the political demands of its young intellectuals. The problem is also ongoing and applicable in general situations. The state must deal with it carefully; suppression would not work in quelling the demands, but would instead have unintended results, etc.

Comrade Ziyang asked me what I thought about the article. I said that the article had good analysis and pointed out a few questions worthy of further consideration. I suggested publishing it in the "Draft Report on Internal Situation," which is published by Xinhua News Agency and circulated within the provincial governor and Army Division Commander levels. He said, "Fine." I sent the article to the editor's office of the Xinhua News Agency (there was one paragraph in the article that especially mentioned that the state must not use the military, which I deleted when I sent the article to Xinhua News Agency). I do not know if the article was published or not. My impression is that I did not see it appear in the "Draft Report on Internal Situation." Therefore, it is possible that it was not printed. If not, it means that the leaders of Xinhua did not agree with me, but I did indeed make that suggestion. If it was published, I take full responsibility.

I sent an article to the People's Daily on May 12th.

After 10 pm on the night of May 12th, Gao Shan, the Deputy Director of a Division of the Office of Research for Political Reform, reported to me that according to the Party Commission of the Beijing Normal University, students would start a hunger strike the next day. I said, "Today's newspapers have already published the news on the decision to hold a director's meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a meeting to discuss the hottest issues interested by the students. The Party and the State have already paid such a degree of attention; why are they still endlessly protesting, and for what?!" Comrade Bai Huimin said, "The article wasn't printed in an obvious place in today's paper, it is possible that the students did not notice. Is there any possibility that we could resend the message in tomorrow's paper?"

I therefore asked Gao Shan to draft a message, which I also personally sent to Comrade Qian Liren past midnight. I told Qian Liren that none of the newspapers had put the NPC director meeting in an obvious place that day, including the People's Daily. My comments apparently put pressure on Comrade Qian Liren. The next day, the article I sent was printed in the headlines of the People's Daily. The conclusion of the article urged the students to remain calm and be reasonable, to take a cooperative attitude, and make efforts with the Party, the State and the NPC for a good NPC director's meeting.

That was exactly my intention when I asked Gao Shan to draft that article. The problems are: first, reporting the NPC meeting at that time effectively diluted the Central Committee Standing Committee's decision of ending the turmoil; secondly, the so-called reactions from teachers, students, officials and workers were fabricated, violating the principle of news reporting (Comrade Qian Liren did not know this, he thought that those were reactions that we had collected.)

I talked to Comrade Hu Qili about my opinions of the April 26th editorial.

Approximately May 13th or 14th, as I passed by the office of Comrade Qili at the Hall of Qinzheng, I told him my opinions regarding the April 26th editorial. I said that the students had reacted strongly to the editorial. In my view, this editorial had its flaws. It did not express reasons clearly. Comrade Qili said he shared my feelings, that it was he who led the drafting of the editorial, and he should bear the responsibility.

I held a conference of law experts under the name of the Office of Research for Political Reform.

The meeting was held in the afternoon and evening of May 16th. The context of the meeting was to discuss the possible legal issues that might arise during the consultation and dialog with the students. I remember the main opinions of the meeting to have been:

  • The legal status of the "Ten Articles on Demonstrations" of Beijing was unquestionable. However, there was a need to establish national laws on demonstrations.

  • According to past regulations of the Ministry of Civic Affairs, there was no need to register an organization if it was contained within a work unit. Therefore, there might be trouble in dealing with self-organized student bodies within each university.
  • There was a need to improve the entire legal system. There were holes and absences which made the problem more complicated.

    The results were summarized in an issue of "Summary of Political Reform" sent to the Central Committee Standing Committee, the Politburo and the CCP Secretariat and other leaders. I did not tell Comrade Ziyang before I held the meeting; but after the meeting (on the morning of May 17th), I told him and mentioned the three points above. He did not express an opinion. The reason that I organized the discussion was to make some preparations for consultation and dialog with the students. It reflects the fact that I had high hopes for consultation and dialog with the students.

    I intentionally added the paragraph regarding Comrade Deng Xiaoping while drafting Comrade Ziyang's talk with Gorbachev.

    Comrade Ziyang did not mention the idea when he asked both Comrade Zhu Liang and me to draft the speech. There was no mention of the idea in the original draft from the CCP Department of International Liaison which was delivered by Comrade Zhu Liang. There was only one sentence in their draft: "The meeting between the two leaders reflects the natural recovery of the relationship between the two parties." I believed that Comrade Ziyang should state more clearly to make Gorbachev understand that the two party leaders mentioned were specifically Comrade Xiaoping and Gorbachev, not Zhao and Gorbachev. It is for that reason that I added the paragraph.

    (There was also a coincidence at that time: Comrade Ziyang was trying to clarify comments made by some people regarding Comrade Xiaoping, had prepared a talk for the leaders of Beijing's major news organizations, a talk whose content included a part which was exactly about the resolution made by all participants in the first meeting of the CCP Thirteenth Party Congress, which was to seek Comrade Xiaoping's opinion whenever there was a major decision to be made, and to ask Comrade Xiaoping for guidance. It was not at all "violating organization principles." On the contrary, if we had not made that clarification, we would have been violating the resolution of the CCP Thirteenth Party Congress. These two speeches for the media were being processed in parallel to what I had on hand, so I naturally moved the content into the Gorbachev speech.) My motive at that time was exactly as such, but the resulting impact was not what I could have foreseen.

    I did not leak information regarding the Standing Committee Meeting on the night of May 16th.

    I did not attend the Politburo Standing Committee meeting on the evening of May 16th. At around 7:30 pm that day, I watched the broadcasting of Comrade Ziyang's speech to Gorbachev - parts I and II - on television, and there was no part III. Therefore, I called Comrade Li Yong. Comrade Li Yong said he did not know why, and that Comrade Ziyang was at the time hosting Gorbachev at dinner, and had not yet returned. He told me to come to the Hall of Qizheng; Comrade Ziyang would be there later, and there would be a Standing Committee meeting.

    But when I got to the Hall of Qizheng, Li said that he had just asked the meeting division, and my name was not on the list. At the moment, I felt pretty embarrassed. About ten minutes later, Comrade Ziyang came in. I asked him why the third part was not included in his speech. He said there was not enough time for him to include the third part. At this moment, Comrade Li Peng came up to us, and Comrade Ziyang walked into the conference room. I stayed in Zhao's office chatting with Comrade Li Yong. Around 2am, the meeting was over, and Comrade Zhang Yueqi came out from the meeting room. I asked him what had been on the agenda, and he said the meeting was about the Standing Committee's open letter to the students. I asked why it had taken so long; were there any disputes? Zhang said, "Nothing major. There was some dispute over whether to use the term 'patriotic motive' or 'patriotic action.' Comrade Ziyang was not very calm today, perhaps he had too much to drink when hosting Gorbachev. If it weren't for the persuasion of Comrade Shangkun and Comrade Qiao Shi, I am afraid the meeting wouldn't be over even now." Comrade Li Yong was also present when comrade Zhang Qiyue said this. All I know about the May 16th Standing Committee meeting are from these pieces of messages. I also did not tell anyone else. (It was reported on the official newspapers the following day.)

    It was I who drafted Comrade Ziyang's resignation letter.

    On May 17th around dinnertime, Comrade Ziyang asked me to come to his home. Comrade Zhang Qiyue was also there. Comrade Ziyang said, "The Standing Committee has held a meeting at Comrade Xiaoping's home and has made a decision. The decision is a secret which I cannot tell you. The Standing Committee has also criticized me, claiming that my May 4th speech precipitated the events. I have reservations about it. I have considered very carefully, and given my personal understanding as it is now, if I were to execute the Standing Committee's decision, I wouldn't be able to be effective, and would negatively effect our work. I think I should resign. So, help me draft a letter of resignation."

    After Comrade Ziyang spoke, I immediately returned to my office to start the draft, and then sent it to Comrade Ziyang. He read it, made no revisions, and said, "Fine." I therefore sent the letter to Comrade Li Shuqiao, and asked him to send it out.

    The next day, when I visited Comrade Ziyang, he said the letter had been returned to him because Comrade Shangkun criticized him by saying that if the students used this as a pretext to further escalate the demonstrations, what would be the result? Comrade Ziyang said he thought Comrade Shangkun was right, that he had not considered the consequences. This letter was drafted by me, and I also had not considered the consequences. I only felt respect for Comrade Ziyang, for he had been honest and straightforward, had not concealed his beliefs, and had given no consideration to his personal loss or gain. Furthermore, I considered this letter itself a report to the Standing Committee; therefore I did not report to the Standing Committee before or after my writing.

    My "Farewell Speech"

    That evening (May 17th), I left Zhong Nan Hai and returned to my office. I felt great sadness. First of all, for Comrade Ziyang: he had been criticized and was resigning. I felt it a terrible waste, for I believed that he was very good leader. Secondly, it was for myself. When Comrade Ziyang asked me to draft his resignation, he especially asked me to keep it confidential. I had replied, "Of course, as always." He told me, "Somebody has told me that you have already leaked secrets." I was extremely insulted and said it must have been Comrade Li Peng, since he had a bad opinion of me. In fact, I had never leaked any secrets. Ziyang said, "I asked Comrade Li Peng whether or not he had any evidence, and he said that he had, but didn't want to say at the time, and that he would reveal them later." (The reason that I suspected Comrade Li Peng had an unfavorable opinion of me, was from my own speculations, because there had been two exclusions of me from the Standing Committee meetings on the evenings of April 24th and May 16th, and the first was exactly when Comrade Ziyang was visiting North Korea and Li Peng was in charge of the Standing Committee's daily proceedings.)

    What was on my mind was this: If Comrade Ziyang resigned, I would also resign, there was no doubt about it. But if they accused me of leaking a state secret, and ruined my reputation, I could not accept that. I felt very heavy, agitated and felt that I must speak out, otherwise I would feel distressed.

    When I returned to my office, there were 13 comrades taking the night shift. I therefore gathered the crowd together and gave a "farewell speech." I did not say much, roughly:

    "This is perhaps the last meeting that I will have with all of you. Someone has accused me of being a 'black-hand', 'a bad guy', and meddling with the student's riots (this is what I had heard in rumors from the public several times since mid-May). Also, there are people accusing me of leaking Party and State secrets. There are two lines from a poem by Yu Qian: 'One should not fear dying in pieces, but one should leave this world with purity.' I have examined myself; I have never done anything against my conscience, and have never violated any rules. I am completely innocent. There are exactly 13 comrades here: so I hear there were also 13 people at the 'Last Supper.' Of course, I am not 'Jesus', and you comrades are not 'Judas.' I only hope that you comrades will be reasonable, observe the rules, and not get too excited. Especially, don't stir up any trouble. If you cause problems for me, it is not that serious; but if you cause problems for Comrade Ziyang, then it will be serious. Wang Changling also has a poem which says: 'Have been a guest of Da Liang, Must remember the kindness of Xin Ling' [1] I would not be able to bear the burden, if you made trouble for Comrade Ziyang."

    That is all I said in my so-called "Farewell Speech." As soon as I had finished, I announced that the meeting was over. All comrades were confused by my speech, which came without further explanations. What I said made all the comrades in the Office of Research for Political Reform fall into great chaos. After the meeting, three comrades came together to ask me what exactly had happened. I said, "Nothing serious. Comrade Li Peng accused me of leaking state secrets; Comrade Ziyang said Bao Tong couldn't have; Comrade Li Peng said he had evidence and that he will use it later. Anyway, I will be investigated." It should be stated clearly: I did not reveal the secret of the imposition of martial law.

    When Comrade Ziyang told me, "The Standing Committee has made a decision, but I cannot tell you the specifics," Comrade Zhang Qiyue was also present. I had guessed that there would be an internal struggle to find "black-hands" or to expand the anti-bourgeois liberalization; I had never imagined military involvement. I learned about the troops entering Beijing on television on the evening of May 19th; I knew of the Martial Law Order after the public announcement on May 20th.

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