How some top Chinese military generals refused to lead tank troops to Tiananmen Square during the June 4 crackdown
Posted by Author on June 5, 2010
JOHN GARNAUT, Sydney Morning Herald CORRESPONDENT, June 4, 2010 –
BEIJING: In May 1989 the talented commander of the legendary 38th Army, Lieutenant General Xu Qinxian, defied an order from the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, to lead his troops to Beijing.
General Xu took no part in the subsequent killing of hundreds of protesters around Tiananmen Square, which is now quietly referred to in China simply as ”June 4” and remains the worst incident of direct military violence against Chinese people in the People’s Republic’s 60-year history. The bloodshed split the People’s Liberation Army as it did the Communist Party and the country. ”The case of General Xu is representative of the dissenting voice within the military,” said Warren Sun, an authority at Monash University on the Communist Party’s internal history . ”Deng held a real fear of a possible military coup,” he said.
The killings around Tiananmen continue to taint the legacies of the party elders who ordered them, led by Deng, and it weighs on the generation of mainly conservative leaders whose careers advanced because their more moderate colleagues were purged or sidelined at the time.
Those internal wounds are still raw, as demonstrated by the effort that the party and PLA have exerted to ensure today’s 21st anniversary will pass without any public mention within China.
But acts of courageous defiance are kept alive by military and party veterans in private conversations and overseas Chinese language publications, in the belief or hope that those who refused to spill blood in 1989 will one day be acknowledged as heroes.
Around May 20, 1989, General Zhou Yibing, commander of the Beijing Military District, had couriered the marching orders to General Xu’s barracks in Baoding, south of Beijing. ”When he was ordered to march into the square, Xu asked a series of questions,” said a serving general in the People’s Liberation Army, answering queries from the Herald which were relayed via a close associate.
”He asked if there was an order from … Zhao Ziyang,” said the serving PLA general, referring to the Communist Party boss who had already been sidelined because of his opposition to the use of force. The answer was no and ”Xu then refused to march.”
General Xu is the best known conscientious objector but not the only one.
On some accounts, General Xu’s mentor, Qin Jiwei, who was then defence minister and a member of the politburo, attempted to forge an alliance with Zhao to oppose martial law. Zhao was purged and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
“He was ordered to implement martial law [after a meeting at Deng’s home on May 17] but he refused, saying he needed party authority,” said a prominent scholar, whose father had served under Qin. “Qin called Zhao’s office and waited for four hours until 2.30 in the morning to receive Zhao’s return phone call overruling Deng Xiaoping … but the call never came.”
There has been no public corroboration of this account by Zhao or those close to him.
The serving PLA general who responded to the Herald’s questions about General Xu also pointed to the case of He Yanran, commander of the 28th Army.
”[General] He was also court-martialled because his armoured personnel carriers and trucks were burned down by angry onlookers and he refused to disperse them,” said the serving general, through the mutual acquaintance.
General Xu was jailed for five years and is believed to be living a quiet life in occasional contact with reform-minded friends. General Qin later maintained a strong public show of support for the crackdown but was nevertheless deprived of his former power until his death in 1997. General He was demoted.
- Click to email (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)
This entry was posted on June 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm and is filed under Beijing, China, Communist Party, history, June 4, military, News, Official, People, Politics, Social, Special day, Tiananmen, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.