Workers supporting student protest in Beijing. Source: Internet image.
In most official narratives of the “counterrevolutionary rioting” in 1989, workers are portrayed as passive participants instigated by student rioters and uninformed of the “truth.” While government suppression was carried out in the name of restoring social order and safeguarding the right to work for tens of thousands of working class people, workers had reason to be discontent. Affected by the privatization of state-run enterprises, a key element of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform since 1978, they questioned why factory cadres held on to management posts while they were first to be laid off. Many worried about mass shutdowns and complained that their pay rises failed to match inflation, which the Hong Kong Monetary Authority says rose close to 30 percent in 1989.
The formation of workers’ federations in 1989, albeit short-lived, represented the first non-Communist Party affiliated, large-scale, grassroots effort to defend labor rights since the founding of “new China” in 1949. For example, the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation, established on May 19, boasted 10,000 members. It supplied student protesters with medicine, food, and water and formed its own “dare-to-die brigades” to prevent the army from entering Beijing.
In other cities similar workers’ federations were set up spontaneously to coordinate strikes and protests, several of which turned violent. (Reports from unofficial sources claim that dozens of people were executed for their involvement in these protests, most of whom were workers.) One of the most violent workers’ protests took place at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant in Hunan Province. Unofficial media reported that more than 1,000 workers protested after one worker was injured by security staff. At least half a dozen workers were arrested and sentenced to long terms in prison. Chen Gang (陈刚) was sentenced to death with two-year reprieve, while Peng Shi (彭实), Liu Zhihua (刘智华), and Liu Jian (刘健) were sentenced to life imprisonment. All of them were convicted of hooliganism—a crime that was removed from China’s Criminal Law in 1997. As a result of international pressure from governments and civil society actors including Dui Hua, most of these workers sentenced for their involvement in the Xiangtan protest received sentence reductions. Chen and Peng were released in 2004 after serving 15 years in prison, while Liu Zhihua was released in 2009 after serving 20 years. The fate of Liu Jian remains unknown.
Not all strikes organized by workers in response to the suppression of the Beijing protests were dealt with as harshly as the Xiangtan shutdown. The account below vividly recounts what happened at Hefei Steel Company, one of Anhui Province’s largest state-owned factories, on June 7, 1989. In that instance, government information confirms that several young workers—ranging in age from 18 to 36—involved in the disturbances were dealt no more than short sentences of reeducation through labor (RTL).
|Ding Hua |
|M||1971||Released after receiving "education"|
|Huang Dezhen |
|F||1953||Sentenced to 1 year RTL for disturbing social order|
|Lin Hua |
|M||1965||Released after receiving "education"|
|Liu Zhu |
|M||1970||Released after receiving "education," sentenced to 1 year RTL for larceny in September 1990.|
|Lü Weizhong |
|M||1966||Sentenced to 1 year RTL for injuring a police officer|
Two of the workers named in the Anhui Daily account, Huang Dezhen and Zhang Xuezhi (张学芝), are women. Women were disproportionately affected by privatization and earned lower wages for the same work. Women also faced employment discrimination in part due to government propaganda stressing that their main role was in the family, not economic production. To this day women continue to face workplace discrimination as evidenced by, among other things, the enforcement of an earlier retirement age.
Anhui Daily - The Whole Story of Hefei Steel’s June 7 Incident : click to expand
Ironclad Proof Beijing’s Counterrevolutionary Riots Were Coordinated
The Whole Story of Hefei Steel’s June 7 Incident
August 12, 1989
The student uprising and turmoil was like an epidemic that spread from the national capital in Beijing to [Anhui’s] provincial capital in Hefei.
After the counterrevolutionary rioting in Beijing in early June of this year, the illegal organizations Hefei “Students’ Autonomous Federation” [SAF] and “Workers’ Autonomous Federation” [WAF] planned a coordinated action with Beijing to block traffic, surround and block factories, incite workers to strike, and, above all, spearhead an attack on the Hefei Steel Company. During the disturbances, a small number of lawbreakers started rumors and incited people at this large-scale, principal enterprise in Hefei, poisoning public sentiment and causing two serious incidents that had a terrible influence.
Lying on the Track Forces Blast Furnace to Stop Production
On June 6, traffic was stopped in Hefei by a roadblock at the intersection of Huizhou Road and Wuhu Road. In the afternoon, the group of students from the Anhui Institute of Chinese Medicine who had set up the roadblock and caused the disturbance started to make their way back to school. When they passed the provincial college of education, a student leader accepted the task from the SAF to help students from Hefei Polytechnic University block the main entrances to Hefei Steel the following day.
On the morning of June 7, three of the main entrances to Hefei Steel’s No. 1 Factory District were blocked by crowds of students from Hefei Polytechnic. At the time, a student leader from the Anhui Institute of Chinese Medicine rushed over with about 80 fellow students to act as “reinforcements.” When they saw that the entrances were already blocked, they went to the intersection of the road near Hefei Steel’s Workshop No. 250. There they gave speeches and showed so-called “color photos of the suppression of students in Beijing,” thereby starting rumors and confusing the crowd. Some of the onlookers suggested that the students go to the No. 2 Factory District. Zhou Jun, the on-duty supervisor of the No. 2 blast furnace in the company’s ironworks, came out of the crowd and led this group of students to the site of the No. 2 Factory District, where they gathered in anticipation. At the entrance to the No. 2 Factory District, Zhou Jun, with ulterior motives and fearful that someone would recognize him, told the students to take off their black armbands and white flowers and roll up their banner. After that, he took three student leaders on a back road straight to the company’s ironworks. Underneath the elevated railway line that led to the blast furnace, he told the students: “You go up above, and I’ll head back.” He then quickly took off. At 9:45 in the morning, the students from the Anhui Institute of Chinese Medicine climbed up and lay down on the elevated railway, thereby interrupting the flow of materials to the three blast furnaces.
At noon, the broadcasting station that had been seized by students on the campus of Hefei Polytechnic sent out a broadcast asking a certain student leader to lead students to Hefei Steel to act as reinforcements. After the student leader heard the broadcast, he immediately gathered more than 20 students from his school, stopped a vehicle, and got a ride to the company’s No. 1 Factory District. Some students told them to go to the [No. 2] Factory District and help the students from the Institute of Chinese Medicine block the railway. On Heyu Road, they stopped a vehicle and got a ride to the No. 2 Factory District. At around 2 p.m., they found the students from the Chinese Medicine Institute where they were blocking the elevated railway to the blast furnace. At the same time, the conveyor belt transporting molten iron that was produced in the blast furnace from the ironworks to the No. 2 Steel Mill’s 20-ton converter was blocked, causing a delay of materials to the converter.
During this time, leaders from the Hefei Steel Company, its ironworks, and the No. 2 Steel Mill, as well as security personnel and school leaders went to the scene on several occasions and tried to persuade the students to stop. It wasn’t until after 5 p.m. that the students finally withdrew from the scene. During this whole incident, the blast furnace had been forced to stop production for 9 hours and 50 minutes, resulting in direct economic losses of 104,469 yuan.
Attack on Hefei Steel’s Special Police Unit
Hefei residents perhaps still remember that there was a rumor going around the city during the turmoil in early June that “Hefei Steel’s special police unit beat students and stole money.” Even some well-meaning people once asked about this. But what really happened? Let’s turn the “camera lens” back to the disturbances of the day!
On June 7, dozens of students from Hefei Polytechnic locked the No. 3 Entrance to the Hefei Steel Company. Thousands of workers and students were stuck on either side of the gate and could not go to work or class. The crowds started to criticize these students. At around 3 p.m., the students saw that their incitement was yielding no results and shouted the slogans, “Overthrow colonial slavery, overthrow the lackies,” and then withdrew from the No. 3 Entrance. Just then, a university student took an unsealed “donations box” and put it on the windowsill of the gate’s sentry post and said, “We’re returning this, we don’t want it.” On-duty workers from the steel company stood in front of the crowd of spectators and counted the 26.30 yuan in the box, then sealed it and instructed someone to safeguard it.
Unexpectedly, a female worker named Zhang Xuezhi who worked in a large collective in one of the company’s mid-sized factories took what had been a very clear situation and muddied it. She jumped up and started the rumor that “the people’s police rob people.” Assistant foreman Guo Zhijun of the company’s first rolling plant and worker Zhang Yingmu heard this rumor and pointed and shouted at the on-duty guard at the gate. Afterwards, Guo Zhijun returned to his team with a group of workers who didn’t know the truth. Entering the No. 3 Entrance, he made the inflammatory statement: “The special police unit beats people and say that workers at our first rolling plant are the ones who beat people.” Zhang Yingmu said, “Anyone who leaves is a coward,” and encouraged the workers not to leave the scene.
At around 3:40, Qian Jiarui, a worker in the ironworks’ sintering workshop who had been previously sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for bodily assault with a knife, went from being a rowdy onlooker at the No. 3 Entrance to locking the door of the No. 1 Entrance. He then got into a car and led the students who were preparing to return to school back to the No. 3 Entrance, shouting as he went, “The special police unit beats people! The special police unit beats people!” thereby poisoning and confusing the minds of the students and crowds laying siege to the No. 3 Entrance. At that time, Zhang Xuezhi smashed the glass of the No. 3 Entrance sentry post with her right hand, causing her hand to bleed. She then put her bleeding hand over the “donations box” and shouted nonsensically, “Blood has been spilled.” Just then, Guo Zhijun went back to the steel mill, stood in the midst of the workers and incited them by saying, “The special police unit beats people and steals their money.” He then took a piece of white cloth from a woman and wrote on it, “All Hefei Steel workers are on strike,” and prepared to lead the people to the security area to demonstrate. Guo was blocked by the factory leaders, but several people who didn’t know the truth went ahead and rushed to the security area to demonstrate, shouting wildly “Support the students, punish the murderers.” Then, the group of people at the No. 3 Entrance sentry post who had been incited, including Zhang Yingmu, Zhang Xuezhi, Qian Jiarui, and Huang Dezhen together with students and a part of the crowd rushed into the courtyard of the security area. Huang Dezhen stood in front of the comrades of the special police unit and spread the rumor: “The special police unit beats people and steals their money. I saw it with my own eyes. They stole 800 yuan. It was Li from Tangchong who did it.” Yu Qingjun, the organizer of the self-proclaimed “Patriotic Corps,” personally went to the security area courtyard and made contact with the students who were then broadcasting speeches. The students broadcast for him a notification to workers to take to the streets and demonstrate. At around 8 p.m., Yu Qingjun led a group of workers and students in a demonstration at the municipal government square. Someone notified the illegal “Voice of the People’s Broadcasting Station,” who then broadcast the rumor that “The special police unit of Hefei Steel Company beat students and stole their money,” a rumor whose influence spread throughout society.
That evening at 11:30, it rained. The workers who were demonstrating at the entrances to alleyways in the city stopped a car and got a ride to the Shu Guang Movie Theater. There they got out of the car and met up with Lin Bin, one of leaders of the WAF and other leaders of the federation, as well as groups of demonstrating students. They went together to the Hefei Steel Company and ran directly toward the special police unit, shouting, “Crush the Hefei Steel special police unit.” Unemployed worker Ding Hua, who had previously received several public security punishments for fighting and theft, along with more than 20 others smashed and pushed over police cars parked in the courtyard. When the police cars were overturned, Ding Hua and others smashed out their windows. After that, these lawbreakers rushed to the door of the special police unit, tore off its placard, flung it to the ground, stamped on it, and smashed it. Just then, someone instigated [the crowd] by saying: “Severely punish the murderer. Go to Tangchong and find this ‘Big Cannon Li.’” Reeducation-through-labor (RTL) escapee Liu Zhu, ex-RTL inmate Lü Weizhong, and close to 20 other people joined the group of students. This group was led to Tangchong by a female worker. At around 1 a.m., they called for the sleeping Li Xuchang, a member of Hefei Steel Company’s special police unit, to come out of his house. They made false charges against him for beating students and then pushed, beat, and insulted comrade Li Xuchang, causing him to sustain many injuries. A temporary Hefei Steel worker surnamed Li also threw bricks and smashed the windows of Li Xuchang’s home. Afterwards, the group took comrade Li Xuchang to Hefei Polytechnic, so that the so-called “beaten students” could identify him, and found out that Li Xuchang had not beaten any students.
Rumors only destroy themselves, and the truth will eventually come out. A small number of lawbreakers threw Hefei Steel into disorder, and the delusional people who caused trouble in Hefei did not succeed in the end. Currently, those involved in the two serious incidents mentioned above have either been taken in for shelter and investigation or are being handled according to the seriousness of their circumstances.
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近年 6 月上旬，北京反革命暴乱发生后，非法组织合肥“高自联”、“工自联” 与北京遥相呼应，策划堵塞交通，围堵工厂，煽动罢工，并首先把矛头直指合钢公司。动乱中，少数不法分子在这家合肥市的大型骨干企业造谣煽动、蛊惑人心，造成两起影响恶 劣的严重事件。
6 月 6 日，合肥徽州路与芜湖路交叉处，交通被路障所阻。在这里设障闹腾的安徽 中医学院部分学生，下午返校，途经省教育学院时，一学生头头领受了“高自联”布置的次日帮助合工大学生堵拦合钢大门的“任务”。
6 月 7 日早晨，合钢一厂区的三个大门被一群合工学生堵住。这时，安徽中医学院的一个学生头头带领本校约 80 名学生，急匆匆赶来“增援”，看到门已被堵，他们便在合钢 250 车间的十字路口向群众宣讲，并展示所谓“北京镇压学生的彩色照片”，造谣惑众。围观的人群中，有人提议学生到二厂区去。合钢炼铁厂二号高炉值班炉长周峻从人群中窜出来，带着这批学生前往位于大兴集的二厂区。到了二厂区大门口，心怀鬼胎的周峻 生怕被熟人发现，叫学生摘掉戴的黑纱、白花，卷起旗子。接着，有带着三个学生头头从小路直奔合钢炼铁厂，到了高炉高铁架路线下，周峻对学生说，你们就在这上面，我回去了。随即匆匆走开。上午 9 时 45 分，安徽中医学院的学生上到高架铁路卧轨，中断三座高炉的给料。
当天中午 12 时，合工大被学生占领的校广播站广播要本校某学生头头带学生到合钢增援。这个学生头头听到广播后，立即召集本校 20 多名学生，拦车来到合钢一厂区， 有学生叫他们去厂区配合中医学院学生堵铁路。他们在合裕路上拦车来到二厂区。下午 2 时许，找到了高炉高架铁路线上卧轨的中医学院学生，同时，将铁厂通往二炼钢厂 20 吨 转炉的高炉产品铁水输送线铁路堵死，造成转炉待料。
在这期间，合钢公司、铁厂、第二炼钢厂领导、保卫人员及学校领导多次到现场劝导，直至下午 5 时以后，学生们才撤离现场。在这次事件中，高炉被迫定产 9 小时 50 分 种，造成直接经济损失 104469 元。
6 月 7 日，合肥工业大学数十名学生将合钢三号大门锁死，数以千计的工人，学生被堵住在三号门两边，不能上班、上学，群众纷纷指责这些大学生。下午 3 时许，学生们眼见煽动无效，便喊着“打倒亡国奴、打到奴才”的口号，撤离三号门，这时，一位学生将一个未封口的“募捐箱”放到门岗的窗台上，说：“还给你们，不要了。”合钢执勤人 员当着围观群众面，请点了箱内的 26.30 元现金。封存后指定专人保管。
不料，本来很清楚的事却被合钢中型厂大集体女工张学芝搅浑了。她跳出来造谣说：“民警打人抢钱了。” 合钢初轧厂副工长郭志军、工人张应木闻此谣言，指着门卫执勤员大喊大叫，随后，郭志军回到班组带来一部分不明真相的工人进入三号门，煽动说：“刑警打人，还讲是我们初轧厂工人打的 。”张应木说：“谁走就是孬种”，鼓励工人不要离开现场。
三点四十分左右，在三号门起哄的炼铁厂烧铁车间工人、曾因持刀伤人被判刑三年的钱家瑞，将一号大门封门、最后上了汽车准备返校的学生带往 3 号门，边走边喊：“刑警队打人！刑警队打人！”蛊惑学生和群众围攻三号门。此时，张学芝又用右手击碎 3 号门岗玻璃，手披划破流血，她将手上的血擦在“募捐箱”上，胡说：“这是流血事件。”这时，郭志军又返回初轧厂，在工人中煽动说：“刑警队打人，抢钱了。”并从一妇女处拿了块白布做横幅，写上“合钢工人总罢工”，准备带人到保卫处示威。郭被厂领导劝阻。但一些不明真相的人仍涌到保卫处示威，狂呼：“声援学生，严惩凶手”。这时，在 3 号门岗起哄、煽动的张应木、张学芝、钱家瑞、黄德珍等人又与学生及部分群众涌到保卫处大院。黄德珍当着刑警队同志的面造谣说：“刑警队打人了，抢钱了，是我亲眼看见的，抢了 800 元钱，是塘冲姓李的干的。”自称“爱国队”组织者的余庆军亲自到保卫处大院与正在广播演讲的学生联系，学生为他广播了号召工人上街游行的同志。晚 8 时许，余庆军带领部分工人和学生游行到市府广场，有人通知了非法的“人民之声广播站”，广 播里播了“合钢刑警队打了学生，抢了钱”的谣言，在社会上扩散影响。
当晚 11 点 30 分，天下着雨，参加游行的工人在市内范巷口处拦车到曙光电影院 下车，遇“合肥市工自联”负责人之一林斌等带领的“工自联”和学生游行队伍向合钢走来，这伙人同他们混在一起直奔合钢刑警队，狂呼“踏平合钢刑警队”。曾因打架、盗窃多次被治安处罚的无业人员丁华等 20 余人，砸、推停放在院内的警车，将警车掀翻，丁华等人还砸碎警车玻璃。 接着，这伙不法分子又涌向刑警队大门，将刑警队的牌子摘下掼在地上跺、砸。此时，有人煽动说：“严惩凶手，到塘冲去找‘李大炮’”。劳教逃跑人员刘柱、解教人员吕卫中等近 20 人混在学生队伍中，这伙人由一个女工带路到塘冲，深夜 1 时许，将正在家睡觉的合钢刑警队警员李绪昌从家中叫出，诬陷他打了学生，并推搡、殴打、谩骂李绪昌同志，使他身体多处受伤。合钢临时工李某还用砖头砸碎李绪昌家窗户玻璃。尔后，李绪昌同志被这伙人带到合工大，由所谓“被打学生”辨认，确认李绪昌并未打学生。