In April, 1989, the sudden death of Hu Yaobang caused a public outcry. On the day of Hu’s memorial, thousands of students crowded onto Tiananmen Square in the centre of Beijing to protest the Communist Party’s handling of recent reforms. Despite initial attempts to quell the protests, with both the Party and the state media branding the gathering as “unpatriotic,” the students launched one big rally after another, eventually occupying the square in a mass hunger strike in mid May.
In The People and the Party, Chaohua Wang, who became a leading member of the standing committee of the Beijing Autonomous Association of College Students, narrates the events of the square. She integrates the drama with in depth analysis of what was going on in the headquarters of the central government and the army, as they attempt to regain control and impose order. By June 2, the Party elders agreed that decisive action was needed, and the Army was sent into the city. Over the next two days troops violently cleared the protesters; thousands were reported to be killed and many more injured.
The book vividly recalls these events and analyzes how they changed the course of Chinese history over the following thirty years. Wang was named one of the twenty-one most wanted leaders of the student movement. She spent more than six months in hiding before traveling to the United States. Since then, China has continued its policies of marketization without democratization, becoming the world’s newest superpower.