Today in History: Hunger Strike

"With the spirit of facing death, we fight for life"In Tiananmen Square twenty thousand spectators watched approximatelythree thousand students begin a hunger strike – a new tactic – in themiddle of the Square. Students pledged to continue with the strikeuntil the government met all their demands. Zhao Ziyang urged the students and citizens not the hamper theSino-Soviet Summit. In addition to his appeal to the people, Zhao alsopromised that the government would take every opportunity to meet thestudents' demands. He said that it was important not to "jeopardize thereputation and image of the Chinese people".____________________________________Declaration of Hunger StrikeIn these bright and beautiful days of May, we are beginning a hungerstrike. In this moment of most beautiful and happy youth, we mustfirmly leave all of life's happiness behind us. We do this ever sounwillingly, ever so unhappily!Yet [we must do so], for our country is in a most critical state.Prices are soaring, profiteering by officials run rampant, powerpolitics hangs high, and the bureaucracy is corrupt. It is a time whenlarge numbers of patriotic, upstanding Chinese willing to devotethemselves to the betterment of their motherland [instead] live inexile overseas, and when social order and public security deteriorateday by day. At this life-death-moment of the nation's fate, allcountrymen of conscience, please listen to us!This country is our country,These people are our people,This government is our government,If we do not cry out, who will?If we do not act, who will?Even though our shoulders are still tender, even though death stillseems too weighty for us , we have gone – we could not but go. Historyasks this of us. Our purest feelings of patriotism, our simple and complete innocence,have been called “turmoil”, have been described as “ulterior motives”,and have been alleged to have been “exploited by a small handful ofpeople”. We wish to ask every upright Chinese citizens – every worker, peasant,soldier, city resident, intellectual, noted figure, governmentofficial, policeman, and those people who have concocted theseaccusations against us – to place your hands on your hearts, and askyour consciences: what crimes have we committed? Are we creatingturmoil? Why, after all, are we boycotting classes, are wedemonstrating, are we fasting, are we hiding? Time and time again ourfeelings have been manipulated; we endure hunger, we pursue truth, yetwe have met with malicious beatings at the hands of the army and thepolice… Students representatives have fallen on their knees pleadingfor democracy, only to be ignored by the government. Our demands for adialogue of equals have been out off repeatedly. Students leaders facedanger.What are we to do?Democracy is the highest aspiration of human existence, freedom theinnate birthright of all human beings. But they require that weexchange our young lives for them. How can Chinese people be proud ofthis? We have gone on a hunger strike because there's no other alternative, and because that is what we should do.With the spirit of facing death, we fight for life.But we are children, we are children still! Mother China, lookcarefully at your sons and daughters; as hunger mercilessly destroystheir youth, as death closes in on them, can you remain indifferent? We do not want to die; we want to live, to live fully, for we are atlife's most promising age. We do not want to die; we want to study. Ourmotherland is so impoverished; it feels as if we are abandoning her togo to die. Yet death is not what we seek. But if the death of one or afew people can enable more to live better, and can make our motherlandprosperous, then we have no right to cling to life.As we suffer from hunger, Papa and Mama, do not grieve; when we partfrom life, Aunts and Uncles, please do not be sad. We have only onehope, that we may all live better lives; we have only one request, thatyou would not forget: our pursuit is life, not death. Since democracyis not a task for a few, it takes generations.To die, hoping for the widest and eternal echo. The words of a dying man are good and wise; the neighs of a dying horse, sorrowful.Farewell, friends, take care! The living and the death are equally faithful.Farewell, my love, take care, I cannot bear to leave you, yet it must come to an end.Far well, mother and father! Please forgive me, your child who cannot be loyal to both the country and to you.Farewell, countrymen! Please allow us to use this means, however reluctantly, to demonstrate our loyalty and love. The vows written with our lives will brighten the skies of the Republic!-- Entire Body of the Beijing University Hunger Strikers Group, May 13, 1989

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