Additional Readings and Links

Mary S. Erbaugh and Richard Curt Kraus

From The Pro-Democracy Protests in China: Reports from the Provinces, edited by Jonathan Unger (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991)

The 1989 democracy movement in Fujian province followed a very different course from the tragedy in Beijing. The events in Fujian were derivative, confined to a small group of intellectuals and students, with very little participation by workers or other citizens. Activists were well-informed about developments in Beijing; they organized numerous demonstrations, with a few slogans which matched those in Beijing but with no specific demands. There was only one brief hunger strike, and little tension before the 4 June Beijing massacre. The massacre's impact was felt quite broadly throughout Fujian society, although with considerable detachment, as people adjusted their lives to China's newly uncertain political environment.

Fujian is one of the smaller of the traditional eighteen Han provinces in both size and population, with 26 million people living in an area the size of Nicaragua or Czechoslovakia. Fujian's relative detachment in the 1989 democracy movement strongly resembles reports we hear from Guangdong, and for similar reasons. Fujian's sights have historically been trained outward, away from Beijing, since the province has many other sources of financial and cultural support. The economy has boomed, while contacts outside China are close and increasing, with half a million Taiwanese visitors in the first nine months of 1989 alone. Trade and investment from Taiwan is enormous. In addition to legal commerce through Hong Kong, smuggling between Fujian and Taiwan is a thriving business. Fujian is now even beginning to export labour to Taiwan; Taiwan sources report that most of the crews of Taiwan ships come from Fujian, and Fujian prostitutes now work in Taibei. Culturally distinct, geographically cut off by high mountains, Fujian has often been an independent-minded province. A Beijing student who visited Fuzhou in February insisted that 'Fujian isn't really China', as he tried to make sense of the wide-open atmosphere, stores dripping with tropical fruit, fancy imported electronic goods, and books which were difficult to obtain in Beijing, such as Yan Jiaqi's history of the Cultural Revolution. Interior Fujian is much poorer and more isolated than the prosperous, narrow coastal strip where most people live.

We spent nine months of 1989 in Fujian. From 1 January through the end of June we were in Fuzhou, where Kraus was resident director of Oregon's Chinese language program at Fujian Teachers University, while Erbaugh was researching language policy. From October through December we lived in Xiamen, continuing our research while Kraus was a visiting professor at Xiamen University. We travelled extensively throughout Fujian, especially during the period of greatest unrest. This report of course is limited by the nature of our contacts, most of whom are academics, artists, or journalists. We also base our report on the Fuzhou Evening News , the Fujian Daily , the Xiamen Daily , and Fujian television. We give disproportionate emphasis here to Fuzhou, although we know that Xiamen, and probably other cities, had similar experiences. (1)

Seven Weeks of Demonstrations: From Hu Yaobang's Death to the Beijing Massacre

Former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang died on 15 April, mourned by Xinhua as a 'fighting pioneer' who had a strong 'experimental spirit'. Hu suffered a heart attack during an 8 April Political Bureau meeting; Fujian rumour had it that he collapsed when his former ally, Hu Qili, told him that he had no right to voice an opinion. The news of the nature of his death must have unnerved China's geriatric leadership, especially since no report of his illness was issued until a week after his death.

Fujian Teachers University was quick to reveal public mourning. Students from the history and Chinese departments placed huge paper flower funeral wreaths outside a dormitory. A traditional funeral-style altar offering appeared in a dormitory doorway, with steamed bread (covered with flies), wine, incense, roses and funeral inscriptions arranged in front of Hu's portrait, cut from the newspaper. This mini-shrine disappeared the following day, but the wreaths, large pencil-drawn funeral portraits, ten-foot banners, and big-character posters remained in place for a week. In very literary language these wished 'Teacher Hu' peace as his soul passed beyond the rivers of hell. A scattering of mimeographed fliers glued to the walls bemoaned his death as 'the greatest tragedy in our young lives'. Others were explicitly political, complaining of the poor pay and lack of respect for intellectuals, whose cause Hu was believed to have championed.

On Saturday, 22 April, the University held a memorial service, organized around the Central Television broadcast of Hu Yaobang's funeral. Students ridiculed Yang Shangkun's accent in reading a long eulogy, claiming he pronounced 'The national anthem' ( guoge ) so it sounded like 'The devil's anthem' ( guige ). People seemed unfamiliar with the faces of the leaders and uncertain about their backgrounds, suggesting, for example, that Zhao Ziyang was a native of Sichuan.

Much of the region ignored Hu's death. An American student who spent 15-19 April in a small Jiangxi town near the Fujian border town did not hear about Hu's death until she returned to Fuzhou. (2)

Student excitement built as 4 May approached. The University scheduled extra dances, outings, and cultural events to absorb excess energy, but at noon on 4 May several thousand students marched through Fuzhou. Striking features of this first demonstration were that at least 90 per cent of the marchers were male, and that there had been little preparation or coordination. Students carried few signs or banners, although one group held aloft an empty length of red cloth, with faded marks where paper characters had once been pasted, possibly once used to open a conference or to promote birth control.

A blocks-long column of people marched fifteen abreast in steady rain. Erbaugh walked alongside on the sidewalk, asking a dozen marchers where they were going, but none of them knew. The students seldom chanted; the few slogans included 'Long live the 4 May Movement!' 'Down with corruption!' 'Down with Zhao Ziyang!' 'Long live the People's Republic of China!' 'Long live freedom and democracy!' and, startlingly, 'Long live teachers!' Erbaugh asked many students what they were marching for. Most replied with vague remarks about freedom. Some personalized their protest: teachers don't make enough money and they did not want to be teachers.

The march made its way to the heart of the city, where Fujian Teachers University students joined demonstrators from Fuzhou University, the medical school, and the agricultural college in May First Square, under the stony gaze of a giant statue of Mao Zedong. At the main shopping district, some stores took the precaution of locking their steel gates, while sidewalks, roof tops and overpasses filled up with shop clerks and customers, hustlers and workers and neighbourhood residents, grinning with excitement, asking 'what's going on?' 'Long live freedom!' 'Long live students!' the marchers replied.

TV news vans captured the happy demonstrators on videotape, and buses with university officials scanned the crowd. Police calmly diverted traffic. Seventeen kilometres from campus, the marchers reached Provincial Party Headquarters. The gates were chained shut, guarded by a row of police. The crowd milled about; some shoved toward the gates, but retreated. After an inconclusive confrontation, the area was deserted by early evening. Police were quite relaxed all day. They had been called out in advance at all major intersections. Traffic was blocked but there was no real trouble. Many students took photographs. Students laughed when asked about the risk of having their cameras smashed, or being photographed by the police. 'No danger', they said. 'We are students. No one will hurt us'. And that day, in Fuzhou, no one did.

Students fearlessly continued to march every Wednesday afternoon (when there were no classes anyway), and at other times, cutting class. 'We support the Beijing students, and we don't want to work for those lousy teachers' salaries when we graduate' was the consensus. Class attendance fell by 80 per cent in many departments. Faculty members seemed unperturbed: 'they are young, you know'. Students said that at least eight of their number had gone to Beijing in mid-May, but returned soon after. Students themselves collected funds for train and bus fares, as well as heavily-used fax, long distance phone calls, and mimeographed and photocopied communications.

The biggest demonstration that we saw occurred on 16 May. Bookstore clerks asked us what the march was about; they had not heard of events in Beijing. When other bystanders set off firecrackers, no one reacted, American-style, as if it might be gunfire. A fat middle-aged Communist Youth League official who had given a long TV speech on patriotism and public order, strolled about the rally in May First Square, walkie-talkie in hand, before riding off in a chauffeured limousine with a beautiful woman in the back seat. No one paid attention to him, far less threatened to punch him, as might well have happened at a Western demonstration.

This absence of anger was impressive. Most of the demonstrators were lighthearted, and the atmosphere was often picnic-like, even when it rained. The police smiled benignly on the crowds, who enjoyed sympathetic local media coverage. No speeches were given at any of the demonstrations we witnessed or heard described. Nor did we see or hear of petitions or lists of demands.

When our students from the University of Oregon observed the 16 May demonstration, they naively failed to understand that Chinese officials would not distinguish between their participation (which they did not intend) and their merely walking along with their Chinese friends (whose company proved irresistible). Two of the blondest Oregonians were broadcast on that evening's local news, easily identifiable in a close-up, in the centre of a crowd of thousands of Chinese. Discipline was immediate. Several officials telephoned to rebuke Kraus for his failure to control the Americans even before the broadcast ended. Although the students presented university officials with a self-criticism written in Chinese, Fujian police refused to extend any student's visa beyond the end of the school term.

By 18 May, when demonstrations reached their peak, student marchers were joined by a scattering of older intellectuals and secondary school students. Demonstrations spread to smaller cities, not only Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, but also to such remote places as Nanping and Longyan. (3) We were in Ningde, a small district capital in mountainous northern Fujian on 18 May, where we watched some five hundred young people march excitedly with signs saying 'Support the Beijing students'.

When Li Peng imposed martial law on Beijing on 20 May, the quality of the Fujian demonstrations changed. Some students became more cautious, others bolder. In Fuzhou that day, a thousand students blocked the express train to Beijing, demanding to see Vice-Governor Chen Mingyi (Governor Wang Zhaoguo was in Europe), but dispersed peacefully after five hours. From this time on, demonstrators stopped chanting slogans critical of Zhao Ziyang, who had become a more sympathetic figure in their eyes. As the standoff in Beijing dragged on, so did the Fujian demonstrations. On 27 May we watched from the top of a hill as the remaining hard-core demonstrators blocked a major bridge over the Min River for an hour.

Fujian officials were reluctant to take tough measures against demonstrators, perhaps because they could not predict the outcome of the crisis. Some officials informally said this was an issue for the central government, not local authorities. Some correctly predicted dates and times of future demonstrations. As late as 18 May, leaders of the Provincial Party Committee received demonstrators and praised their patriotism. Other actions, such as diverting traffic and cancelling classes, could be interpreted as tacit support. Coastal Fujian has profited from Zhao Ziyang's reformist policies; Governor Wang Zhaoguo, once a leading member of the Party Secretariat, had been transferred to Fujian after the 1976 dismissal of his patron, Hu Yaobang.

The leaders' hesitancy also emerged in their treatment of Fuzhou's statue of Mao Zedong, which towers over May First Square. In March Mao had been wrapped in scaffolding, as Fuzhou belatedly prepared to follow Beijing and other cities in destroying this Cultural Revolution relic. But the demonstrations changed the political climate, so that tearing down the statue might appear to be a deliberately militant gesture against Mao's memory. Fujian's large PLA forces, for instance, might have misinterpreted this as yielding to the demonstrators. So the scaffolding went up and down repeatedly during the spring as officials debated. Eventually, Mao was simply cleaned up a bit, although two large flanking walls with copies of poems in Mao's hand were torn down.

Response to the Beijing Massacre

We were awakened about 1 am on 4 June by voices singing 'The Internationale', then watched thousands of students march past our apartment, singing, shouting and crying, moving toward the city centre. News of the Beijing massacre had reached the campus even while it continued. Some students were terrified that troops from a neighbouring base would attack their dormitories, but no confrontations occurred. We did see an unusual number of military transport planes fly out of Fuzhou over the next few days, perhaps ferrying troops to the North.

After dawn, University loudspeakers played 'The Internationale' and 'the funeral dirge' over and over, using the same widely-available tape which had accompanied Hu Yaobang's funeral broadcast. An early afternoon bike tour of the city revealed an absolutely quiet, normal, hot Sunday: little girls in lace dresses, popsicle sellers, fruit vendors, old men lying on rattan couches in the street listening to opera. There were no wall posters, fliers, speeches, or students, nor were extra police or soldiers visible. Late in the afternoon, a police sound truck cruised by. These vehicles usually harangue listeners to obey traffic laws or practice family planning, but this time a female voice spat out the words 'Beijing', 'putting down disorder', and 'injured soldiers'. Cyclists slowed down to ride alongside, trying to make out what turned out to be the People's Daily editorial. If soldiers had been injured, what about the civilians? People's faces went stiff with concern, but no one said a word.

On Monday the 5 June, students marched again and again, this time organized by department, carrying banners with mourning slogans and beautifully drawn fists, hearts, and drops of blood. These slogans were heartfelt and colloquial, a poignant contrast to the highly formal eulogies for Hu Yaobang. Even the shyest women students marched, some in high heels and parasols, outraged and heartsick. Many held aloft large tape recorders playing the funeral dirge. Still, there was no conflict with the police, many of whom were rumoured to be sympathetic.

That day the Oregon students took their already scheduled final examinations, then went through graduation ceremonies in an atmosphere of horror. University officials and members of faculty were grey-faced with worry about their children and friends in Beijing. Phone calls and telegrams were not getting through. Our offer to cancel that night's farewell banquet was immediately accepted with relief.

Many Chinese students maintained a vigil in the centre of campus on the night of 5 June, singing 'The Internationale' and the national anthem over and over, chanting, terribly upset. Slogans included 'We won't go to sleep till Li Peng hangs himself' ( Li Peng bu shangdiao, women bu shuijiao ). Another described chopping Deng Xiaoping into tiny pieces, stewing him up into a brew too stinking to swallow. Students were delighted when Americans pointed out that 'Deng' is a pun with the English 'dung'. But there was a realistic acceptance that further demonstrations would be dangerous. We only witnessed one more, on 6 June, when a small group from the provincial agricultural college marched somewhat dejectedly through the centre of Fuzhou.

On 6 June, Australian English instructor Rod Curnow hiked two hours up a mountain above Fuzhou to a friend's native village which is barely reachable by road. The villagers had heard news of the massacre, but were indifferent. They thought Deng was a fine leader, though the last time they were interested in politics was 1981 when Deng gave them back their land. They were also happy with Deng for allowing them to purchase wives from Sichuan.

The Oregon students remained calm despite frantic phone calls from family in the US. The Beijing-focus of Western reporting made many American parents believe that civil war had broken out over all China. Many callers insisted that the students, deprived of the American mass media, could not possibly understand what was happening in China. The students patiently rearranged their travel plans and left by bus for Hong Kong. Hysteria reigned, however, among American English teachers (and covert Christian missionaries) at the South China Women's College, a private institution in Fuzhou. Some feared that they would be taken hostage by the PLA, to be held until the United States gave up Fang Lizhi. Rumours spread wildly that five children of Fujian Teachers University faculty members had been killed in Beijing, and that the father of a murdered student had posted an anguished big-character poster at the school gate. Chinese friends assured us that no such poster existed, and that the five offspring originally feared missing had all been safely accounted for.

Fuzhou closed its universities two weeks early, but on 6 June the national and provincial education commissions demanded that schools make students return to class. A poster on campus and a tiny notice in the Fujian Daily requested that students return. Fujian Teachers University sent postcards to families 'within convenient travelling distance' instructing them to send their children back. Many families, of course, kept their children safe at home. One mother, a PLA member from Xiamen, had rushed to Fuzhou on 4 June to take her son back to her unit, where he would be safe.

By 18 June, Fuzhou was utterly quiet, though the People's Liberation Army printing factory across the street broke its normal silence to crank its noisy presses around the clock for three days, churning out what were no doubt copies of 'Comrade Deng Xiaoping's Important Speech'. Late in June, toasts at our farewell banquet were confined to 'Fujian-Oregon Friendship', leaving out the national governments entirely. No one wanted to mention Beijing. We declined a banquet by the provincial government for fear of being opportunistically televised as foreign supporters of Beijing (as happened in other cities to Western visitors). But we heard of only one case of a foreigner being subjected to a hardline Beijing view of the virtues of martial law.

Xiamen's demonstrations had been much like those in Fuzhou, perhaps with more fliers and posters. Xiamen University loudspeakers had broadcast news from BBC and the Voice of America. A few students had held a hunger strike for two days in front of the Cultural Palace, which ended when the University president came to speak to them personally after Li Peng declared martial law. The police were calm, even vacating a police box on Zhongshan Road so that the students could climb up and take photos. As in Fuzhou, on the night of the Beijing massacre many Xiamen University students feared an impending military attack on their campus. Much discussion concerned the direction PLA troops were facing, whether toward Kuomintang-controlled Jinmen (Quemoy) or toward the campus. Some students stood guard around campus with bottles and bats.

Fujian is a long way from Beijing, and historically has been little concerned with the capital and its politics. When the demonstrations first began, much of Fujian's local intelligentsia regretted that Fujian was this way, as the demonstrations were tepid compared those of cities and provinces further north. After the massacre, the same people were relieved that the locals are more interested in making money than in politics. Others took pride in Fujian's avoidance of violence. A surprising number of intellectuals said that the Beijing students should have stayed home or that people who block traffic deserve what they get. Many intellectuals followed the government in distinguishing sharply between student demonstrators and those from worker or other backgrounds. One reason Fuzhou stayed calm, we were told, was because 3,000 petty criminals, scheduled for release in May, had been detained in prison until the crisis passed. Depressingly, Fujian was one of the earliest provinces to express support for the troops, on 6 June. Later we heard (perhaps incorrectly) that the head of the provincial Communist Party, Chen Guangyi, is married to Deng Xiaoping's niece, and was merely fulfilling his family obligations.

An Elitist Movement

As in Beijing, the chief slogan of the demonstrators was 'democracy'. The meaning of democracy for most Fuzhou demonstrators was vague at best. Their demand had little relationship to Western concepts of popular rule. In the words of Jackie Smith, an American studying Chinese, 'When I asked a student in Fuzhou what democracy meant for her, she defined it as a policy of accepting [educated] people into government roles based upon their skills and not upon their connections. As the system is now, she and many others - though they may be qualified - are unable to enter governing positions'. (4) Others were horrified at the suggestion that truly popular elections would have to include peasants, who would certainly out-vote educated people like themselves.

Fuzhou students seemed mostly concerned with improving their own economic situations. Although students make up only 2 per cent of the college-age population in China, in Fujian they rarely reached out to other groups. Specific complaints about a lack of personal or press freedom almost never reached our ears; they were not prominent even in the slogans shouted. What the intellectuals deeply resented was financial pressures, fearing a drop in living standards. The hottest topic among educators, and the students at our university, who were all future teachers, was the low wages and bad living conditions for teachers. Many students firmly believed that US teachers are the most highly-paid members of society, while Chinese teachers make less money than the lowest peasant or street peddler. This mix of doggedly optimistic ignorance about the West and gloom about their own position in Chinese society formed the basic ideology of the student demonstrators.

Intellectuals also resent pressures from runaway internal immigration which fuels inflation, crowds buses, and limits housing. Fuzhou, with an official population of 700,000, has had 250,000 such migrants in the past year; some 30,000 lived in our neighbourhood, a dozen inside the dormitory building under construction twenty metres away from us.

A lack of respect for their status also depresses intellectuals. According to an instructor at our university, in 1988 two hundred grade schools in Fujian closed down completely because of a lack of funds. Sixty per cent of the teachers in the province's community-funded minban schools are unqualified, lacking even a junior high-school level teacher-training course. (5) The teacher's union investigated 200 cases of teachers who were beaten by students in 1988. (6) In addition, many classrooms and teacher's dormitories are physically unsafe. Both Fujian and Beijing TV news featured a Pingtan Island classroom with such huge holes in the floor that second-floor students could watch and hear classes on the first.

While there were no clashes with police or soldiers in Fujian, open tension between students and the army erupted even before the demonstrations began, poignantly prefiguring the class barriers between urban students and rural recruits which exacerbated the Beijing tragedy. Fujian Teachers University is in a neighbourhood with many military installations. When women students from the Fine Arts department were mocked by a group of local troops one Saturday evening in March, the women sent for their male classmates to defend their honour. During the ensuing confrontation, a soldier cut one young artist's face with a broken bottle. Provincial Party Secretary Chen Guangyi is said to have negotiated a settlement whereby the PLA apologized and agreed to hire a top-rank plastic surgeon to repair the damage.

A similar incident broke out in Xiamen shortly after Hu Yaobang's death, when a group of picnicking Xiamen University students taunted a group of soldiers: 'What are you doing here? Defending us against Taiwan? Taiwan businessmen are everywhere!' The soldiers beat up a student, generating the immediate cause of the first Xiamen demonstration. The somewhat narcissistic thrust of the Fuzhou demonstrations also emerged in the reaction to a fight in which Fujian Teacher's University soccer players were beaten and hospitalized after they played Fuzhou University. This mid-May incident sparked large, angry big-character posters on campus which drew larger and more sympathetic crowds than any other poster last spring.

Students could not easily overcome their isolation from other social groups. In Xiamen, bystanders made few expressions of support for demonstrators, although some donation boxes appeared. Some local merchants made contributions, while in Fuzhou workers in one factory donated 10,000 yuan in one hour. Some Xiamen University students visited factories to solicit worker support, but stopped quickly after the factory managers visited campus officials to complain. Outreach to other groups was limited, in part because students know so little about them. Many firmly believe, as do their professors, that peasants have become the richest class in China, and that all market peddlers have large secret stashes of money. Yet when asked why they don't turn to trade, most react with horror. There was no mention of women's issues, but they are increasingly urgent, with women being kidnapped and sold as brides, fired from their jobs en masse as part of 'streamlined' management schemes, incidents of female infanticide, and so on. Several employers at a commercial spring job fair openly refused to employ women.

No Shortage of Information

Many people in Hong Kong and the West mistakenly believe that Chinese in the provinces had no idea of the events in Beijing. When we visited Hong Kong in July, many were unwilling to believe how much information was available in Fuzhou. Sources were diverse.

The official Chinese media reported far more than most foreigners realize. Even when the editorial twist was hostile, one could glean important information. The Fujian Daily and the Fuzhou Evening News emphasized student apologies for disrupting public order in their 20 May front page accounts of blocking the train tracks. Highlighting the apologies may have been a deliberate effort to protect the students. Other reports gave detailed accounts of riots in Xi'an and Chengdu, complete transcripts of Li Peng's televised meeting with student demonstrators, and of Tom Brokaw's interview with Yuan Mu.

Foreign broadcasts were numerous. Many Chinese have shortwave radios; during the crisis they shared them with friends to listen to the BBC, Radio Australia, and Voice of America. The VOA and BBC were broadcast over the loudspeakers on our campus and at Xiamen University. Taiwan radio in Chinese, and Taiwan's commercial English-language FM station, ICRT (International Community Radio, Taiwan) reach Fuzhou clearly without shortwave. Ordinarily ICRT broadcasts a bizarrely misplaced simulacrum of midwestern American pop radio ('this song is dedicated to Tammy Lin'), but during the crisis it became an all-news station, relaying hours of reports from BBC, the US networks, and even its own highly professional reporters who were in Beijing to cover the meeting of the Asian Development Bank. None of these broadcasts was jammed. Foreign broadcasts had been jammed for several days in March, when the Chinese government imposed martial law in Tibet. But from March on, the jammers let the information flow.

We and our students continued to receive all mail, including very critical articles, in English and Chinese. Mail was delayed for several days after the burning of the train in Shanghai on 6 June, but all arrived, apparently unopened. Other reports came via fax, sent directly from Hong Kong and elsewhere. Even after the massacre, illustrated news stories faxed from Hong Kong were posted on walls and lamp-posts around Fuzhou. Police did not remove these until 7 June. Throughout the crisis summaries of BBC reports, handwritten in Chinese, then xeroxed, were posted around the city.

Hundreds of thousands of overseas Chinese visit Fujian every year; many brought in Hong Kong and foreign newspapers, to say nothing of verbal reports. Many Fujian intellectuals have relatives in Beijing, whose letters and visits provided additional information. An informal network of telephone contacts kept people informed with impressive speed, as illustrated by the Fujian Teachers University students' sombre march at 1 am on 4 June. A small number of Fujian students visited Beijing and returned with stories about the demonstrations. Photographs of the demonstrations there, including the 'Goddess of Democracy', circulated freely. In addition, a Beijing student representative was rumoured to be visiting Fuzhou. However, we saw no indication of any student pamphlets or newspapers in Fujian, nor did any of the short-lived publications by Beijing demonstrators seem to make their way to Fujian.

After the massacre the flow of information diminished sharply, although visitors to and from Beijing brought fresh and often apparently accurate rumours (including reports of gunfire and the assassination of soldiers). Most intellectuals derided official television news, but even this conveyed a clear sense of the depth of China's crisis. On the evening of 4 June the Beijing nightly news program was unable to produce its customary weather map, leading viewers to speculate (correctly) that Chinese television headquarters was under siege. Off-camera reporters relied upon titles on the screen, apparently to shield themselves from blame for the lies they were forced to report. One anchorwoman defiantly wore black clothes, for which she was reportedly assigned off-camera work. Some editors sabotaged the official line in subtle ways, for instance by broadcasting on two successive nights (5 and 6 June) the same irrelevant stories about grain in North China and fibre optic surgery on injured kneecaps. And when Deng Xiaoping was finally brought out for display on 9 June, Beijing television editors chose to broadcast a segment in which the elderly Deng was unable to speak clearly, requiring a prompt from Li Peng in order to complete a sentence. None of these images suggested a government in control.

A Half-hearted Campaign to Restore Order

After the massacre, Beijing authorities attempted to restore order to the capital by destroying the remnants of the student movement. Fujian officials mounted their own less heavy-handed campaign. The only visible sign of Beijing's harshness were posters in Fuzhou's Taijiang commercial district (a river-front neighbourhood full of transients) describing the most-wanted Beijing demonstration leaders. One member of Beijing's Academy of Social Sciences was, in fact, arrested when he returned to his Fuzhou home, and soon after the massacre a group of Beijing student leaders were apprehended off the coast of Lianjiang County in a fishing boat as they tried to sail to Taiwan. The arrangements for this trip had been made through small-scale entrepreneurs who supported the movement. Moreover, most of the nearly 500 Chinese repatriated from Japan in March 1990 were Fujianese who had left by boat in the confusion after the massacre. In early December, our Xiamen University car was stopped on the highway between Xiamen and Zhangzhou by a group of machine-gun-toting officers who checked our vehicle for wanted student and worker leaders from Beijing. But most of the efforts to find other fugitives in Fujian were apparently unsuccessful. Several dissidents escaped to Taiwan via Xiamen in late September. (7) A few Fujian students were questioned by the police, but we heard of no arrests. One Fuzhou participant in the railway station sit-in was photographed by a security camera, shouting to the crowd with a bullhorn. When the police questioned him, he cleverly argued that he had been urging the crowd to disperse. The Fujian police were willing to go along with such evasions, but such a story would not have been long tolerated if provincial officials had turned more repressive.

Many Fujian journalists were said to be deeply depressed by the massacre. Some said that they been able to produce 'only three days of real news'. Throughout the spring, Chinese TV broadcast almost nightly news of the Palestinian uprising, often directly after an item about Tibet. Such coverage stopped after the massacre, though the news media were slow to present a coherent official line. But by mid-June, Fuzhou newspapers and television were obediently and soberly on-side and were praising four mediocre colleges for their passive behaviour during the demonstrations.

It was soon obvious that few people were taking the official line seriously. Political meetings were highly routine. University students were required to take turns reading Jiang Zemin's National Day Speech aloud; faculty members engaged in empty discussions. In at least some Fujian meetings, intellectuals could read magazines or even nap. Individuals felt little pressure to speak. Such meetings were reportedly without much political interest, although at least one discussed Zhao Ziyang's visit to Xiamen University, where he is said to have suggested selling state-owned factories to foreign investors, a view which his adversaries likened to Milton Friedman. Zhao Ziyang had also visited Fuzhou in the spring; speaking without any handlers from the military commission, he angered PLA commanders by proposing that front-line troops had become superfluous and should be dispersed. (8)

But Zhao was not held in disrepute by everyone. In August, the Hui'an Stone Carving factory displayed a carving of both Zhao Ziyang and Li Peng on a past inspection tour of the factory. The grimace on Li Peng's face is unmistakably unpleasant. This little bit of heresy had not been present in an earlier visit in May; it sat beside two big carvings of Mao Zedong which were present in May, but which sported new red ribbons by August.

The Situation in Late 1989

The Beijing massacre affected the Fujian economy, although its impact is difficult to disentangle from the national policy of cooling an over-heating growth. Before June limited electricity supplies routinely blacked out whole neighbourhoods in Fuzhou as local industry strained for extra power. By October production had declined enough for an adequate power supply to the whole city. Manufactured goods became cheaper, although food prices continued to soar. The drop in business relieved some strain on transportation, so that gasoline prices dropped by 40 per cent. Exchange rates on the black market dropped by half, apparently due to weakened demand for luxury imports. Xiamen suspended the issuing of new business licenses, delayed the opening of several restaurants, and closed at least three massage parlours. However, Fuzhou opened several square blocks' worth of shiny new businesses. Local officials attempted to cushion the economic decline by continuing major highway construction projects. Taiwan investment declined somewhat, but by autumn the number of Taiwan visitors had actually increased over 1988 figures. Fujian has never had many Western tourists, so this income loss was minimal compared to that suffered by Guilin, Beijing, or Xi'an.

By autumn, students did not seem especially anxious. Foreign reports that all freshmen in Xiamen had been sent to the countryside for a year are incorrect. (9) We did hear that four Fuzhou students had been denied graduate school admissions because of political activity. Campuses were holding more political meetings than in recent years, but of a rather routine sort. Credible stories of impressive solidarity among intellectuals who participated in demonstrations reached us from many sources. One describes how an entire work unit lied to protect one of its members who had marched. But plausible rumours of students recruited to spy upon their professors also circulated. Members of faculty in controversial areas were understandably toning down some of their lectures until the political freeze ended.

The greatest anxiety arose from young intellectuals who were hoping to go abroad. One of Kraus's jobs in Fujian was to arrange for six Fuzhou academics to spend a year at Oregon universities. After the massacre they all worried that first, the US side would cancel their visits, then, that China would do so (as in fact happened in one case). Some young intellectuals were trying very hard to emigrate, leading to unpleasant and bizarre conversations. One painter insisted that we should show photos of his work to US millionaires. He was unwilling to believe that we know no millionaires.

By November Fujian had settled down into a campaign against pornography. This served as a cover for purging books by the likes of Yan Jiaqi, but it also allowed the Party to move discussion away from the massacre toward such pettier issues as playing-cards with pictures of naked women. The campaign focused on Fujian, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Hainan. It appeared milder than the 1987 campaign which banned the song 'Never on Sunday' for glorifying prostitution. In Fujian, at least, several intellectuals spoke of the new direction with relief. Most proper Chinese intellectuals agree not only that pornography should be controlled, but also that it is better to burn books than to bury the scholars.

But views about the future were far from uniform. The younger intellectuals were bitter toward Deng Xiaoping, and deeply depressed. Middle-aged veterans of the Red Guard wars were more optimistic. Some even continued to regard Deng Xiaoping as a necessary leader for China, as the immediate alternatives struck them as even nastier. One artist was overheard telling his friends with anger that Fang Lizhi had pushed a good situation too far: 'Fang Lizhi sings his song for only a handful of people - why should he screw up cultural relations for everyone?' Still others obediently went through the motions of Party loyalty, but with many private reservations.

By late 1989, new slogans were painted up in Fuzhou and along the coastal highway. But their content was perhaps consciously benign: 'conserve water', 'promote afforestation, plant fruit trees, wipe out poverty'. The Fuzhou Mao statue now appeared as a backdrop for TV news stories. In November, the Xiamen University Party Committee announced moves to clamp down against abuses in the allocation of housing and foreign travel opportunities, and in the management of university-owned enterprises. But such efforts were having little impact on the attitudes of the university staff. The great majority of intellectuals, it seemed, were more united than at any time since 1949, in their powerful belief that the current regime has forfeited its legitimacy.


1 We have used information learned from Yoshiko Ashiwa, David Wank, Jackie Smith, Gretchen Ross, Rod Curnow, and Ian McKelvey, as well as many Chinese friends and acquaintances who must remain anonymous. We are responsible for the interpretation of events in Fujian, and for any inaccuracies which may remain in this report.
2 Jackie Smith, personal communication (20 April 1989).
3 ' Wosheng gedi gaoxiao shengyuan shoudu xuesheng qingyuan huodong ' [Higher Education Activities Throughout our Province Support the Beijing Students' Petition], Fujian Daily, 19 May 1989.
4 Jackie Smith, 'Report from China', Capital Area Peace Studies Chronicle , vol.1, no.1 (September 1989), pp.4-5.
5 'Zaojiu gao zhiliangde jiaoshi duiwu, tigao da, zhong, xiaoxue jiaoxue zhiliang' [Create a High-quality Teaching Corps, Raise the Quality of Education in Trade Schools, Secondary Schools, and Colleges], Fujian Daily , 30 March 1989.
6 Chen Zongliang and Xue Congmeng, 'Weihu jiaoshi hefa quanyi' [Protect the Legal Rights and Interests of Teachers], Fujian Daily , 4 April 1989.
7 Voice of America, 1 October 1989.
8 Luo Bing, 'Junwei wenjian pi Zhao tu yong bing zizhong' [Military Commission Documents Criticize Zhao for Using the Military for His Own Purposes], Zhengming , no.143 (September 1989), p.11.
9 Frank Viviano, 'Part of China Still Talks Openly of Democracy', San Francisco Chronicle , 4 October 1989.

by Mary S. Erbaugh and Richard Curt Kraus

From The Pro-Democracy Protests in China: Reports from the Provinces , edited by Jonathan Unger (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991).
Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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