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Source Analysis - Zhao Ziyang's Speech to the Protesters


Alex Wong

on 25 February 2013

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Transcript of Source Analysis - Zhao Ziyang's Speech to the Protesters

Source Analysis
Zhao Ziyang's Speech to the Protestors In Tiananmen Square The Transcript of the Source The Question Assess how useful the source is to a historian studying the unrest in China in 1989. In your answer, consider the perspective provided by a source and its reliability. Reliability Perspective Usefulness Primary Source An Original Document - A speech Source by Zhao Ziyang Zhao Ziyang was a Chinese citizen Zhao Ziyang was a Communist Party member and the General Secretary of the Communist party Speech presented at Tiananmen Square to the protestors gathered demanding widespread reform The source was produced on 19th May, 1989 to the protestors Date: May 19, 1989

Location: Tiananmen Square, Beijing. China

“Students, we came too late. Sorry, students. Whatever you say and criticise about us is deserved. My purpose here now is not to ask for your forgiveness. I want to say that now, your bodies are very weak. You have been on a hunger strike for six days, and it's now the seventh day. You cannot go on like this. Starving for such a long time will cause irreparable problems for your bodies, and is dangerous for your health. Now what is most important is to end this hunger strike. I know, you are doing this in the hope that the Party and the government will give a most satisfactory answer for what you are asking for. I feel, our channel for dialogue is open, and some problems need to be resolved through a process. You cannot continue to – after seven days of hunger strike – insist on stopping only when you have a satisfactory answer.

You are still young and have much time ahead of you. You should live healthily to see the day that the Four Modernisations (as proposed by China's first premier Zhou Enlai in 1975 in the areas of agriculture, technology, industry and defence) of China are realised. You are not like us, we are already old, and do not matter. It was not easy for the country and your parents to nurture you to reach university. Now in your late teens and early twenties, you are sacrificing your lives! Students, can you think rationally for a moment? Now the situation is very dire as you all know, the Party and nation are very anxious, the whole society is worried. Besides Beijing is the capital, and each day the situation is worsening; this cannot go on. You mean well, and have the interests of our country at heart, but if this goes on, it will go out of control and will have various adverse effects.

All in all, this is what I have in mind. If you stop the hunger strike, the government will not close the door on dialogue, definitely not! What you have proposed, we can continue to discuss. It is slow, but some issues are being broached. I just wanted to visit you today and at the same time, tell you how we feel, and hope that you will calmly think about this. Under irrational circumstances, it is hard to think clearly on this. All the vigour that you have as young people, we understand as we too were young once, we too protested and we too laid on the tracks without considering the consequences.

Finally I ask again sincerely that you calmly think about what happens from now on. A lot of things can be resolved. I hope that you will end the hunger strike soon and I thank you.” Zhao Ziyang Zhao Ziyang was one of the most important figures within the Chinese Communist Party during the events of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Zhao Ziyang was the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party during 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests and was one of the members of the more liberal wing of the Communist Party that was sympathetic towards the protestors demands for reform. This led to a power struggle between Zhao Ziyang and the more conservative elders of the Communist Party and Deng Xiaoping which resulted in Zhao's forced resignation and removal from power just before the 4th June, 1989 incident. Zhao Ziyang remained in house arrest until his death on 17th January, 2005. The speech was presented on the 19th May, 1989 in Tiananmen Square therefore it was made during the protest itself and at the heart of the protest movement. The speech was made by Zhao Ziyang to tell the students to take care of themselves during the hunger strike and that the channels of dialogue between students and the government and party officials are never closed. Another motivation for the creation of this speech was to calm the angered and determined students in Tiananmen Square by telling the students that they are acting irrationally so that the students would scale back their protest instead of escalating the protest further. There is some bias in the speech such as the students being portrayed as being irrational by still protesting and staging hunger strikes and weaken themselves physically in the opinion of Zhao Ziyang. However, Zhao Ziyang is also biased towards the students as Zhao openly voice his opinion that the students deserved to criticise the government for their inability to push through various reforms in China. The bias showed in the source by Zhao Ziyang is witting as Zhao wants to publicly voice his opinion on this event. Zhao wanted to use this speech as a means to mediate between the government and the students by pointing out that the students were acting irrationally and that the government is also at fault for not reforming quick enough. This speech was made to all of the students participating the hunger strikes. This shown by the constant use of the term 'students' in the speech and the footage taken by media reporters of the actual speech in Tiananmen Square. This source is fairly useful to historians studying the 1989 unrest in China from students and workers as the speech was given from a right wing reformist point of view from Zhao Ziyang. One useful way this source can be used by historians studying the 1989 unrest in China is the view of high ranking Chinese Communist Party and government official Zhao Ziyang towards the protest staged by students in Tiananmen Square. Another way the source is useful to historians studying the 1989 unrest in China is the study of how right wing reformers within the Chinese Communist party viewed the protestors and the protest. Overall, the source is fairly reliable as it was delivered by Zhao Ziyang who was a government official with sympathetic views towards the students, therefore taking into account the various arguments and ideas of both parties and giving an opinion which encompasses both sides arguments. However, there is bias within the source, therefore it must still be taken into account when using this source. The source is also helps historians understand how the unrest in China in 1989 led to a stalemate and military crackdown because of the students refusing to compromise with the government's responses until all the demands of the students had been met. The source helps historians understand the unrest in China in 1989 was created because of the slow pace reforms and the lack of political and democratic rights in China. By Ki On Alex Wong The Source
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