Bickering over Tiananmen: an inside view

China's Communist elders engaged in a fierce power struggle before patriarch Deng Xiaoping sent troops to crush Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989, secret documents published here show.

The documents reveal deep-seated paranoia that the protests were controlled by unknown anti-Communist conspirators. They also expose anxiety by the party's top leaders that the more than 1 million demonstrators gathered at Tiananmen Square could demand their arrest.

The documents detail conversations among Mr. Deng and other Communist leaders. They are said to be based on never-before-published minutes of secret high-level meetings, Chinese intelligence reports, and records of Deng's private phone calls.

The documents were provided by an unnamed civil servant who describes himself as a Communist Party member sympathetic to reformers. They appear in "The Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese Leadership's Decision to Use Force Against Their Own People," published by Public Affairs Books of New York.

They show Deng and subordinates bickering over the protests before hard-liners won his ear, provoking the bloody suppression of the democracy movement on June 4, 1989, killing hundreds, and by some accounts, thousands of people.

"We can't just allow people to demonstrate whenever they want to," a transcript quotes Deng as saying. "If people demonstrate 365 days a year and don't want to do anything else, reform and opening will get nowhere."

According to the transcripts Deng, whose "open-door" policy led to massive changes in China's economy, believed the situation was so serious that it could result in his own house arrest.

"Anarchy gets worse every day. If this continues, we could even end up under house arrest," Deng is quoted as saying.

The transcripts were compiled by secretaries who took notes during leadership meetings. Two American scholars, Columbia University's Andrew Nathan and Princeton University's Perry Link, said they are convinced that the documents are authentic.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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