Tiananmen Incident

Tiananmen Incident

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The Tiananmen Incident took place on April 5, 1976 at Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen Gate located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world...

 in Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. The incident occurred on the traditional day of mourning, the Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival
The Qingming Festival , Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice , usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar...

, after the Nanjing Incident, and was triggered by the death of Premier Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 earlier that year. The public strongly disapproved of the removal of the displays of mourning, and began gathering in the Square to protest against the central authorities, then largely under the auspices of the Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

, who ordered the Square to be cleared.

The event was labeled as counterrevolutionary immediately after its occurrence by the Communist Party's Central Committee and served as a gateway to the dismissal and house arrest of then-Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

, who was accused of planning the event. The Central Committee's decision on the event was reversed after Deng came to power in 1978, as it would later be officially hailed as a display of patriotism.

Cause


The death of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 on January 8, 1976, prompted the protest. Zhou Enlai was a widely respected senior Chinese leader. For several years before his death, he was involved in a political power struggle with other senior leaders in the Politburo of the Communist Party of China
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

.

Premier Zhou's most visible and powerful antagonists were the four senior members who came to be called the Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

. The leader of the gang, Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing was the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Communist Party of China power figure. She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career, and was known by various other names during her life...

, was married to Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

. To defuse an expected popular outpouring of sentiment at Zhou's death, the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 limited the period of public mourning; for example, the national flag was lowered to half-mast for only one hour.

Mourning


In Chinese culture, people celebrate the 106th day after the winter solstice as Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival
The Qingming Festival , Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice , usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar...

, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day. In 1976, the Qing Ming festival fell on April 5. Even before the tomb sweeping Day that year, citizens who mourned Premier Zhou's death began to place paper wreaths and white paper chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemums, often called mums or chrysanths, are of the genus constituting approximately 30 species of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae which is native to Asia and northeastern Europe.-Etymology:...

s at the foot of the Monument to the People's Heroes
Monument to the People's Heroes
The Monument to the People's Heroes is a ten-story obelisk that was erected as a national monument of the People's Republic of China.The Monument was built in memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th centuries...

 in Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen Gate located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world...

.

On April 4, for example, hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents came to the square to lay wreaths at the Monument. Hundreds of mourners posted handwritten poems there as well. Many of the poems seemed to refer to and commemorate ancient Chinese historical events, but most were intended to criticize China's current leaders. It was an indirect way of expression without compromising the possibility of arrest by security forces (see Jan Wong
Jan Wong
Jan Wong is a Canadian journalist of Chinese ancestry. Wong worked for The Globe and Mail, serving as Beijing correspondent from 1988 to 1994, when she returned to write from Canada....

's account of these poems in Red China Blues). An example is a poem implicitly criticizing Jiang Qing by attacking the Empress Wu Zetian, a 7th century Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 empress who ruled after her husband died.

The large number of mourners and intensity of the public outpouring of sentiment alarmed government and Communist Party
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 officials. The Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 met in emergency sessions in the Great Hall of the People
Great Hall of the People
The Great Hall of the People is located at the western edge of Tiananmen Square, Beijing, People's Republic of China, and is used for legislative and ceremonial activities by the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party of China. It functions as the People's Republic of China's...

, which lies a few yards west of Tiananmen Square. The leaders decided to remove all the wreaths, flowers, and poems.

Public security forces acted during the night of April 4-5 and cleaned the area around the Monument. On April 5, tens of thousands of Beijing residents returned to the Monument in Tiananmen Square and were dismayed to find the wreaths and other commemorative materials removed. In addition, public security officers cordoned off the area around the Monument, preventing mourners from approaching.

Government response


China's leaders, namely Jiang Qing (Mao Zedong's wife) and Mao Yuanxin, saw the popular gathering as a threat to the forward movement of the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

. They consulted with Party Chairman Mao Zedong, claiming these people to be "capitalist roader
Capitalist roader
In Maoist thought, a capitalist roader or is a person or group who demonstrates a marked tendency to bow to pressure from Bourgeois forces and subsequently attempts to pull the Revolution in a capitalist direction....

s" who were hitting back at the Proletarian Revolution. Action was taken on the night of April 5, when the number of mourners were a few thousand. Controlled by Jiang Qing and the mayor of Beijing, the militia encircled the area, then went in with clubs and batons to drive the people away from the monument.

The media subsequently linked the event to Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

, then carrying out the daily duties of the Premier. It was rumored that the Gang of Four had become apprehensive of Deng's influence and thus attempted his removal. Deng was an ally of Zhou Enlai, and was placed under house arrest in Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

. After Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four in October 1976, Party leaders rehabilitated Deng and brought him back to Beijing, where he emerged as China's Paramount Leader
Paramount leader
Paramount leader literally "the highest leader of the party and the state ", in modern Chinese political science, unofficially refers to the political leader of the People's Republic of China....

in 1978.

Further reading

  • Wong, J. (1995). Red China Blues. New York. Doubleday/Anchor Books. 406 pages. Pages 165-171. ISBN 0-385-47679-5
  • Cheng, N, (1996). Life and Death in Shanghai. New York. Penguin Books. 543 pages. Pages 470-471. ISBN 0-14-010870-X
  • Teiwes, Frederick C. and Warren Sun, "The First Tiananmen Incident Revisited: Elite Politics and Crisis Management at the End of the Maoist Era," Pacific Affairs Vol:77 Issue:2 (2004) pp. 211-235.
  • Cheater, A. P., "Death ritual as political trickster in the People’s Republic of China," The China Journal Vol:26 (1991) pp. 67-97.

External links