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Today in History: The declaration of martial law in Beijing

At approximately thirty minutes past midnight, Premier Li Peng made aspeech at the Great Hall of the People declaring that "the capital isin a critical situation ." Li Peng asserted that the studentdemonstration had "seriously violated the Law" and that "a handful ofpersons [was] using the hunger strikers as hostages to coerce and forcethe Party and the government to yield to their demands." In conclusion,Li called on "the whole Party, the whole army and the whole nation tomake a concerted effort and act immediately at all posts so as to stopthe turmoil and stabilise the situation." The martial law broadcastpleaded with citizens to cooperate with the army.Following Li's speech was a speech made by Yang Shangkun, the PRCpresident and permanent vice-chairman of the Military Commission. Thespeech, supporting the Premier's actions, stated that to "safeguardpublic security in Beijing and restore normal order, a group of troopsfrom the People's Liberation Army was being moved into the capital fromoutside the city."After the speech Li Peng signed the documents declaring martial law incertain districts of the capital city. The details of martial law werethen promulgated by the mayor of Beijing, Chen Xitong. The law, banningany form of protest, was declared effective at 10 am. The governmentordered the shutdown of all satellite transmissions at 10 am.Reports indicated that first violence erupted at 4am. Riot policeattacked students who were lying on a road in an attempt to preventarmy trucks carrying 600 soldiers from getting in through the southernpart of the city. Ten students were reported to have serious wounds,while 20 were slightly injured.Residents not only used their bodies to prevent the troops fromentering the city, but they also tried to persuade the troops to jointheir cause. Many troops claimed that they were not informed by theirleaders about the true situation in Beijing. One report stated thatabout 15 trucks, each carrying about two dozens soldiers, turned aroundand drove away from the Square after talking to student demonstratorsfro several hours. Towards the end of the day, approximately 100,000 people at TiananmenSquare were prepared to spend the night there in order to protect thestudent hunger strikers from military attack. Protests also erupted in other major cities. About 300,000 protested inXian. Other rallies were held in Shanghai, Guangdong, and at least sixcities and even small villages. 40000 students and supporters held arally in Hong Kong under stormy weather. Up to 10,000 marched in Macau.In Washington, D.C., several thousands marched to the embassy. InManhattan, about 300 gathered and delivered an open telegram sayingthat they ceased to recognise the Chinese government under Premier LiPeng. Queen of Holland and the French minister of defense announced that theywould delay their visit to China. Britain, France and Japan urged theircitizens not to visit China.

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