2388: Connecting Vocabularies, The Diary
The following are selected excerpts from Stefan Umærus diary, originally written by hand day by day in the months preceding June 4th, 1989.
1989, 22nd of May, Monday.
Two days ago, from 10 o'clock Saturday the 20th of May, martial law was declared in Beijing, at present of no consequence. At dawn trucks with soldiers aimed for Beijing came from provinces in China. Figures vary: 500 vehicles, 10 000 soldiers - the BBC mentions several 100 000. Soldiers had not read newspapers for a week, did not know the situation and had been told in advance it was an exercise. The trucks were stopped by citizens of Beijing, mainly students, informing them of the situation. Soldiers had advanced as far as Gong Zhu Fen, a crossroad and subway station connecting the Changan Jie and the third ring road, but withdrew to suburban Beijing, and have still not advanced into the city center and Tiananmen square, where tens of thousands of students are on hunger strike.
On the 24th of April I, attended a rally at Bei Da, short for Beijing University. Student leaders called for a revitalization of Bei DA traditions in political campaigning. Representatives of various faculties where presented, some infighting occurred. The mood of the students gathered in the newly built sports arena was subdued, and mingled with fear, though the demands had widespread support. Walls in and outside Bei DA are covered with hand written bulletins and sometimes witty descriptions of the state of the country, using foreign cigarette covers and the like to describe the situation. What is the state of the people? CAMEL. What is the state of the Chinese business man? AMERICAN BLEND NO.1.
last days of April, I went to Hangzhou, where news were scarce about events
in Beijing, though the movement exists in many cities. On leaving Beijing,
I saw trucks loaded with soldiers heading north along the third ring road
- young boys with shaved heads, in green uniform and with blank faces.
Public transportation, buses and subways were overcrowded. Beijing buses
with normal rush hours capacity of 13 persons per square meter were overcrowded
and did not stop, people throwing bottles at them. I was later told, by
a friend, that this was the 38 army, jointly called in by the government
and military headquarters, not only because of student demonstrations,
but to prevent mutiny in Beijing regiments.
days and nights to come saw massive crowds streaming to Tiananmen, where
the square had the appearance of a refugee camp. Young students on hunger
strike were lying under temporary shelters - tents and umbrellas. They
were organized over the square in groups belonging to different institutes,
schools and universities, all under their own flag. Crows of curious and
supportive Beijing residents filled the pavements and nearby streets.
Bicycles were stacked in the corners of the square. Every second minute
an ambulance with screaming sirens shot through the crowd, helped through
by students forming chains, arm in arm.
the district in northwestern Beijing where universities and institutes
are concentrated, housing students by the thousands in squalid dormitories,
the white washed walls are black with finger prints, cement floors are
constantly dirty, trash piles up along the rows of thin doors, all numbered.
In austere cellar like rooms Chinese student live, often five to six in
one small room, where they share a table. Laundry dries on zigzag wires
strung between the beds.
weather, clear blue soft skies. At night no roadblocks are in the street.
Near the Shangrila Hotel, a small crowd is gathered outside a captured
trolley bus. A young woman ceaselessly reads texts through a small loudspeaker
attached to the bus window corner. The voice carries much poignancy, less
emotion, which is my general impression of student agitators in street
corners. In daytime at Tiananmen the square looks much the same as the
preceding days. The crowd has diminished in numbers and the piled up garbage
is more apparent. The Red Cross warns there is a risk of epidemics.
I spent most of the day at Tiananmen with a Chinese friend. He helps me translate texts on banners. Groups of demonstrators encircle the square. Demonstrators shout they will march till Li Peng has hanged himself. The French nursery rhyme "Frere Jacques" is given a new text:
"Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, there is another scoundrel called Jiang Qing."
150 000 in troops are supposed to surround Beijing. It is very quiet and
calm at Bei Wai. The days are hot.
Spent day going nowhere. China Daily says the army is on duty in the city center, around the railway station and Tiananmen. I have not seen it though.
( Voice of America), says the 27th army used violence to take control
of Tiananmen, tanks running over bodies of citizens lying on the ground,
blocking the way. Tanks demolishing roadblocks, soldiers using automatic
rifles firing into the crowd leaving at least 100 dead and several hundred
wounded. Reports says soldiers were clearly prepared for more bloodshed,
children and elderly being among the dead and wounded.
The Chinese government declares the army has shown themselves to be pillars of the dictatorship of the proletariat, protecting the fruits of labor. The army attack is hailed as a great victory. The citizens at Tiananmen are declared to be class enemy, lawless, thugs and criminals engaged in counterrevolutionary activity.
Over the telephone one of my friends calls from Beijing Daxue, and tell me to leave the dormitory. "They are arresting people, it doesn't matter if they are foreigners or not. They are burning bodies in the square"