(TibetanReview.net, Jul24’19) – China has called the death on Jul 22 of Li Peng, the “Butcher of Beijing,” a great loss to the Party and the country. Li earned that ignominious title for his role as the country’s Premier in the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989 when soldiers killed hundreds, or possibly thousands, of unarmed civilians in a massacre that the government has never allowed the country to talk about.
Li was stated to have died Jul 22 evening in Beijing of an unspecified illness, aged 91.
Li later defended his actions as a “necessary” step but sought to play down his role in the massacre, claiming he was merely following then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s orders.
In its obituary, the official Xinhua news agency says Li “took decisive measures to stop the unrest and quell counter-revolutionary violence” during the Tiananmen protests.
“Amid the political disturbance between spring and summer in 1989, with the resolute support of the older generation of proletarian revolutionists with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as the representative, Li took a clear stance and he, along with most of the members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made decisive moves to stop the turmoil, end the counter-revolutionary riot and stabilize domestic situation and played an important role in the major struggle concerning the future and fate of the Party and the state,” said a commentary by China’s Xinhua news agency Jul 23 on his passing away.
Protesters calling for accountable governance and end to rampant corruption occupied Tiananmen Square in Apr 1989 and began the largest political demonstrations in communist China’s history. Six weeks later, in the night of Jun 3, tanks moved in and troops opened fire, killing and injuring many unarmed people in and around Tiananmen Square.
In diary entries Li – published in 2010 – attempted to play down his role in the massacre, claiming he was merely following Deng’s orders.
In contrast, leaked Communist Party documents known as the “Tiananmen Papers” appeared to suggest Li spearheaded the crackdown, encouraging Deng to go ahead with it, noted a bbc.com report Jul 23.
The report said that when he was still alive, Li tried to clear his name, arguing that his actions in 1989 were backed by Communist Party elders. In an essay published by China’s state media, it continued, he said the top leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, had given his “firm and full support to put down the political disturbance using forceful measures”.
He held the premiership for 11 years until 1998 and remained a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee – China’s top decision making body – for 15 years.
Born in 1928 in the province of Sichuan, Li was the son of a communist revolutionary who was killed by the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party, in 1931. He was adopted by Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, and his wife, Deng Yingchao, at the age of three. He joined the Communist Party in his teens and moved to Moscow, where he trained become a hydropower engineer.
Upon his return to China, he worked at a state power company. His family still dominates the country’s power industry.