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Private letter by Doctor Jiang Yanyong
to reverse the verdict on Tiananmen
Doctor Jiang Yanyong

Jiang Yanyong is the doctor who became a household name in China last year when he contradicted government figures for the spread of the deadly SARS virus in the country, revealing that an official cover-up was taking place. His action spurred the Chinese government into admitting the true extent of the SARS crisis. Jiang has now bravely sent an orginally private letter to the National People's Congress and other leaders asking for an official reassessment of the events in Tiananmen on 4 June 1989. The letter found its way into the public arena and is rapidly being signed by hundreds of Chinese dissidents, academics and others, inside China and elsewhere.

15th Anniversary of the violent suppression of the pro democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989

Letter by Jiang Yanyong

24 February 2004

Dear Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPC), Chairperson and Vice-chairperson of National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, Premier and Vice-Premiers of State Council,

In 1989, students in Beijing launched a patriotic movement, which covered the issue of anti-corruption - especially corruption among officials - and demanded justice. The movement was widely supported by fellow Beijing citizens and people throughout the country. However, a few corrupt leaders of the government, trying to protect their own interests, replied to their righteous demands with the worst measures a government could think of. They sent out troops, tanks and machine-guns to crack down upon the peaceful and unarmed students and citizens, killing several hundred innocent people and injuring several thousand more in the streets of the Beijing. After the massacre, lies from the propaganda machine and heavy-handed polices of repression followed to try to silence the voices of the people.

15 years after the event, the government wishes the massacre would gradually fade from people's memories. It used to categorize the Tiananmen Incident as "counter-revolutionary" rebellion, but slowly this policy has changed to become a "political conflict in 1989". Why the change of name - if those who were responsible for the crackdown believed they were doing the right thing? If it was merely a conflict, why should some 100,000 soldiers have been dispatched? What did the innocent people do, that they had to pay the price with their lives? Here I call for a reassessment of the official verdict on the patriotic students's movement in 1989.

I am a surgeon of the People's Liberation Army's 301 Hospital. When the student movement broke out, I was head of the General Surgery Department. At the night of 3 June, there were radio broadcasts repeatedly warning people to stay at home. At around 10 pm, I was in my hostel and heard some gunshots from the north. A few minutes later, my beeper rang and I rushed to the emergency unit. I was not expecting to see seven youths bathed in blood, lying on the floor and beds. After an electrocardiogram, two of the wounded youths were certified dead and I nearly blacked out.

Having been a doctor for more than 30 years, I have encountered some tragic scenes. For example, during the construction of Chengdu-Kunming Railway, I treated groups of injured workers, but these injuries were from unavoidable accidents in the construction process. I was totally lost after seeing the People's Army using weapons given to it by the people, to shoot their very own people, right here in the capital. Yet I did not have time to think -- more intensive bursts of gunfire broke out and blood-stained people kept arriving, lying on wooden planks or tricycles, carried by the neighouring residents. While I attended the wounded I also requested my coworkers to call all doctors and nurses in my department to get to the Surgery Rooms as soon as possible.

There were 18 surgery rooms in my hospital and that night, we used every inch of them for rescue work. From 10 pm to midnight, our emergency unit admitted 89 people wounded by guns and seven of later died. All night, doctors divided into three teams to operate on the patients in all the 18 surgery rooms, trying to rescue as many people as possible.

Some victims remain in my memory and they will remain there forever. One of them was a young man in his 20s, the youngest child of a retired cadre-couple, living opposite to the hospital. When the broadcast started, the parents told their children (four or five of them) that they were not allowed to go out that night. To keep the children home, they started a mahjong game. By 10 pm, the parents went to bed, but their youngest child and his fiancee (earlier that day they had applied for a marriage registration) rushed into the street when they heard the gunshots. When they were close to the Wukesong Crossroad, the machine guns kept firing without pause. The young man's fiancee ran quickly back and asked her boyfriend to return with her. After a while, she found that he was not following her. She went back to look for him and found that he was lying on his own blood.

She called his name but there was no response! She tried to move him in vain. Some people came up and carried him to my emergency unit. Our nurse checked his blood pressure - nothing! An electrocardiogram - a straight line! I attended to him myself and only found a bullet hole in his preaxial left arm - no exit wound was found. His girlfriend begged us to rescue him but it was a hopeless case. A straight line on the electrocardiogram meant he was dead and we guessed that the bullet had shot through his heart. That poor girl was heart-broken; she ran back to his home and brought his mother to the hospital. The mother searched his body and found only the one entry wound; she kneeled down in front of me, pulling at my legs and entreating me to help her son. I was tear-stained but I had to tell her the truth; "he is dead, the bullet has broken his heart". When her mood became more stable, she shouted out that; "I joined the army and the Party when I was very young. I fought the Japanese with the Communists, defeated Jiang Jieshi [Note 1] and now the People's Liberation Army has killed my dearest boy. I must see justice done."

Her son was placed on the floor in the morgue, where all corpses were placed and were guarded by the army. As the killed ones were called "hooligans", their bodies were not allowed to be taken away. The boy's family came the next day, trying to claim his body back but they were turned down. It was only later, with the help of their relatives, some high-ranking officials that they finally could bring the boy home.

Another victim was a strong motorcycle sportsman. He went practicing in Fengtai District and returned to Wukesong at night. Before he stepped down from his motorcycle, he was shot. Bystanders immediately placed him on a cart and brought him to my emergency unit. His left inguinal [NOTE 2] was shot and blood kept flowing out. It was made worse because it was in a place where no tourniquet could be applied. Hand pressure did not stop the bleeding and there was no medicine to stop the flow. We tried to give him a blood transfusion but we did not have much blood left at that crucial time. His blood pressure dropped dramatically and he went into a coma with difficulty in breathing. Before my very eyes, he opened his mouth, struggling to get some air into his lungs and finally died. As a doctor to be standing in front of a patient and see him die under such circumstances, it was something I can never forget.

At midnight, a major general (the only solider we served that night) was admitted. A bullet had gone through the middle of his upper left arm, my diagnosis was a comminuted [multiple] fracture of his humerus. I found lots of broken metal pieces around the wound (which I realized later was made by a devastator bullet [Note 3] made of lead).

The general told us that he had gone out to visit a relative that day and on his way back to the Military Museum (his work unit); he was shot by a troop of soldiers passing by. He said that on his left had been a child and on his right side was an old man. They were both shot by the non-stop machine guns and died immediately. He considered himself as lucky, having only one arm injured. One of the bystanders who sent him to my hospital was a retired soldier from the Sino-Vietnamese War; he told us in the hospital, "the behaviour of the PLA, its pro-leftist work, has brought us soldiers a very bad reputation among the people. This time, using machine-guns and tanks to kill its people, it is simply [committing] evil deeds. The soldiers will have no more creditability with the people anymore."

After midnight, the troops had passed by my hospital and no more injured people were being sent in. I went into the surgery rooms to check how the operations were going. Some patients had been shot in their livers and inside the livers; we found a lot of broken bullet pieces. Some doctors even found metal pieces in the patients' bowels. We took photos and recorded these cases. We knew that the bullets were not ordinary ones; they were devastator bullets, which had already been banned in International Law.

Since martial law was ordered on 19 May, troops were not able to proceed to the inner city (Ed: the Forbidden City, opposite Tiananmen Square), therefore they were stationed at my hospital and other military departments along Fuxing Road. We talked to the troops during their stay and after they learnt the reasons behind the students' movement, they all announced that they would never participate in any action to crack down on them. During those days, at 6 am every morning, a helicopter from the airport in the west of the city, would fly from the west to east, along the Fuxing Road, to communicate with the troops' regimental commanders (there was one in my hospital), to make sure that the troops would be ready at a moment's notice.

The soldiers would line up neatly to wait for the helicopter. The regimental commander told officials in the helicopter via radio link, "the soldiers are ready". When the helicopters left, they were dismissed and could talk to staff in the hospital freely. As these troops were not used in the crackdown, they were sent back in late May and early June. It is said that those troops which carried out the massacre had been transferred from Shandong Province at very short notice. Quite a number of the soldiers had been in a real battlefield in Vietnam and were trained to kill. On their way to Beijing, they could not read newspapers, were not allowed to listen to the radio and therefore knew nothing about the movement. When they arrived, they were told that they were on a mission to crackdown upon "counter-revolution". Those ignorant soldiers were lied to in order to carry out military orders and to take part in such a cruel event.

That night, 3 June, none of the medical staff could make sense of the massacre. Naively, I thought it was one of the commanders who had gone out of his mind and did such a stupid thing. I went to the hospital Director, Director Liao, who had rushed to the hospital to help with the rescue work, to see if it was possible to call the senior officials and report this case, therefore stopping the soldiers.

Director Liao was shocked like us, weeping and totally lost. In the morning of 4 June, a tank arrived and brought in 2 unconscious soldiers. I was in the emergency unit and the people who brought them in said they could have been poisoned. I talked to Director Liao to ask if the Military Medical Science Institute, opposite our hospital would know how to treat them. We called that institute and tried to transfer them to the 307 Hospital through the underpass. It was really upsetting to see how both our people and the soldiers got hurt in such a way.

On 9 June, Deng Xiaoping called for a meeting with all department heads and started the investigation into people's attitudes. One day, after the hospital asked him to do so, Professor Zhu Ke, my ex-schoolmate and head of Department of Neurology came to ask me to explain why I went to Tiananmen Square in mid-May with my graduate students.

I told Zhu that, "you should leave this alone and go tell whoever is in charge of this case to come to me directly". Before long, a staff member from the Political Bureau staff at the hospital came to see me. He said that from some videotapes they had found me, together with graduate students in Tiananmen. "The students were in a vehicle, hoisting a flag written "Support Group from the PLA's Postgraduate Medical School". You were riding your bicycle, traveling side by side with them. Now explain this to me!" he said. I told him that it was a Wednesday afternoon, my department was going to a meeting held by the Beijing Society of Surgery. When we went to take the vehicle we had reserved, they told us the streets were full of protestors and no vehicles could pass by. At the same time, I saw many graduate students were in their white coats riding in a vehicle on their way to Tiananmen to help the students here. They also saw me and asked me to join them, but they said they were planning to stay there so I had to take my bicycle with me. Therefore, I rode my bike and they were in the vehicle and we talked on our way. When we arrived at Lishi Road, their vehicle could not move anymore. So they walked into Tiananmen and I went on with my bike.

There was a thunderstorm that afternoon, I cycled around Tiananmen and returned to the hospital straightaway. All the staff in the hospital knew about my visit to Tiananmen and I did not find anything wrong with it. I told the Political Bureau staff to report all this faithfully. From then on, whenever 4 June was discussed, I said it was wrong to suppress the students' movement. My anticipated promotion that year was suspended.

After 4 June, the government's attitude was widely adopted. The Director of the Military Medical Science Institute, Professor Qin Baiyi, said he did not do anything incorrect during martial law. When the troops wanted to stay in his institute, he made them ensure the safety of the institute, because some Beijing people might not be happy about the troops staying there and this might cause conflicts. However, the troops refused to accept the terms so they did not stay in his institute. He also agreed to send the students water because all the staff wanted to do this. He said that he had even sent vehicles to help with the transportation of the water and lots of other government departments did the same thing.

After the "evaluation", Prof Qin was dismissed. A vice-director of a hospital and my ex-schoolmate, Professor Tang Peixian, told the leaders that when he joined the students' movement in Shanghai before 1949, the nationalist government used only hoses to dispense the students and he could not understand why the so-called people's army should use guns and tanks to kill innocent people and students. As a consequence, Prof Tang was dismissed too. Another vice-director, on the other hand, said something the leaders found 'agreeable' and he later became the director.

After 4 June, most of my friends knew that the government had handled it in a very bad way. However, we dared not speak our minds - we were suppressed by our seniors. However, our attitude of going along with the government was just an illusion. For the last 15 years, at all time, I have made it clear that I thought the crackdown was totally wrong and I always hope that one day the party would correct its own mistake.

When the Cultural Revolution was about to destroy the party, Deng Xiaoping came out and corrected the mistakes beginning with the party itself. It was a very good example and it saved China from a disaster, giving the people confidence in the Party. That was a time when food shortages were serious and you needed coupons for all kinds of basic supplies, however the people stood by the party to overcome the hardship together. In 20 years' time, our country has developed a lot and living standards for ordinary people have improved greatly. And now, the people, everyone in the country and the entire world, wish that our government will correct its previous mistake. It is something which is supported by the people and it will not cause the fall of China to make such a self-correction.

In 1997, I visited Comrade Wu Zuguang who said he had asked to make a speech in the CPPCC. After he sent out the draft speech to the organisers as required, he was not allowed to deliver his speech at the main conference, but instead was assigned to a cultural activities part of the conference. He wanted to raise the point that while Deng Xiaoping had done a marvelous job in the economic reform of China in the last 20 years and while people would not forget his contribution, Deng Xiaoping did not however handle the 4 June issue correctly. Now he has passed away, it is time for the Party to re-evaluate 4 June.

'In 1989, Deng was too old to learn the facts himself, all the information he received was indirect reports from others. At that time, Chen Xitong, the mayor of Beijing made some false reports, stating that the students' movement was controlled by foreign powers and Deng believed in those lies. Chen was later found guilty of corruption and as he was the one who made up those false reports, it should be now time to tell the truth.' After Wu's speech, nobody in the conference hall made any objection (no one could think of a reason to object) but nobody expressed support to his proposal. He said he was really sad, to see those intellectuals and elites, even shared the same thoughts as he did but not daring to speak out. Mrs Wu said she has been asking him to draw back as nobody would support him anyway, but her husband would never listen to her about this issue. Wu told me that that the function of a mouth was for eating and talking. If one talks, one must speak the truth. If the mouth is for telling lies or cannot speak the truth, it will be left only with the function of eating and what is the meaning of it? Wu's theory gave me some insights: one should and must tell the truth. After seeing Wu, I went to see my teachers in Beijing University, Lei Jieqiong and Wu Jieping. I told them my experiences that night on 3 June. They said that they did not experience it as directly as I did, but they believed the government had done a very wrong thing. They could not help much but they were sure it would be rectified in the future.

In 1998, together with some comrades, we sent a letter to the government leaders, NPC and CPPCC members, to demand a reassessment of the verdict on 4 June, under the name of "a group of old Communist Party members".

The same year I visited Yang Shangkun to report to him my Taiwanese trip (Yang used to be the person in charge of the distribution of Taiwan-related work). We talked about my cousin, Jiang Yinshi, and his idea of reunification between Taiwan and PRC. Later I told him that on 3 June I had been the surgeon in charge of the 301 Hospital's rescue work and if he would like me to tell him about it. He agreed and I told him what I had seen and I shown him the letter I have just mentioned. He said that 4 June was the worst mistake the party had made in its history and he believed it would be rectified, though he was not able to correct it anymore.

Yang's comments must be shared by many other old party members. After 4 June, the Advisory Council of Central Government, conducted by Bo Yibo, held a hearing against Guang Yuan, Du Runsheng, Li Rui and Li Chan. Some people did not want them to be registered as Party members anymore. On hearing the news, Chen Yun, wrote a letter to the committee of the Advisory Council of Central Government. The letter was stating that; "we should not do such things anymore [Note 4]. We should have learnt enough lessons and if we do such things, we might have to rectify them later." After reading the letter, Bo withdrew the proposal to dismiss the four old comrades. From Chen's letter, one could tell that he was not supporting the measures taken on the 4 June. However, I have no way to know if the leaders, the NPCs and the CPPCC have learned from Chen's idea.

Recently I read Ding Zilin's For China's Future, I went through her story: a mother lost her 17-year-old child in the Massacre and was continuously under all kinds of pressure for more than 10 years; such a pain was unimaginable. She and the other victims' families made use of all means to document and reach out to some 200 killed and injured victims and their families. Their demand, which they raised up in the limited avenues they have, is simply a reasonable demand for any reasonable society, i.e. that the government should carry out a proper investigation of the massacre. If our beloved ones were killed, wounded, or suddenly disappeared one day, wouldn't we have the same demand? As a Party member, a Chinese and a person with dignity, each of us should come out and support their action openly. Since 1995, each year the Tiananmen Mothers have written open letters to NPC, to raise their demand, but every time, it has been met with stony silence. As the highest authority of the country, how can the NPC be so irresponsible in the face of such a serious and justifiable demand?

I have written a lot here, my main idea however is that in the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and in our new leaders' speeches, they all stressed that the Constitution must be enforced and must serve each individual. That means, the Standing Committee of NPC, the National Committee of the CPPCC, the 16th Standing Committee of the Political Bureau in the Community Party, must all follow the three basic principles of the Constitution. The three basic principles are the practical application of theory, power emanates from the people and to be both critical and self-critical. [Note 5]. These principles must also be applied in the re-evaluation of 4 June. The Party's mistake must be corrected by the Party and the sooner and the more comprehensive it is, the better. I believe a reassessment of 4 June is supported by all people and will not affect China's stability. The so called 'stability should come first' idea, introduced after 4 June has in fact been making the situation worse. Every year when 4 June is approaching, certain people would feel very uncomfortable, for they do not know how much power and effort they need to put into suppressing the people's dissatisfaction. The psychological burden is not lighter year after year, but the other way round, as the people grow more and more angry and disappointed.

I have thought over and over again before I wrote you this letter. I have taken the consequences of this letter into my consideration but still, I believe I should tell you what I think. If you, the leaders, think you need to talk to me, please contact me.

Please let me know if you receive this letter.

Jiang Yanyong
Surgery Department
301 Hospital, Beijing

Translated by China Labour Bulletin [CLB takes responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies contained in the translation]


Note 1: Jiang Jieshi or Chiang Kai-Shek was the leader of the Guomindang who fought against Mao Zedong and the Communists before being defeated and fleeing to Taiwan.

Note 2: Small area of the stomach near the groin

Note 3: Devastator bullets (also known as dum dum bullets) have lead azide-filled centres within lacquer-sealed aluminum tips and are specifically designed to explode a second time, inside the victim, producing a wound channel three to four times the bullet diameter. The use of these bullets have been banned during war in the "Declaration on the Use of Bullets Which Expand or Flatten Easily in the Human Body" 1899 and later proscribed through reference to the Annex of the Hague Convention IV of 1907, Article 23(e) in use against a second party's military force but can legally be used in other circumstances such as counterterrorist actions domestically.

Note 4: Throughout modern Chinese history, Communist Party members were regularly stripped of their membership if they were found to be in opposition to the current policies or were on the losing side of a political struggle.

Note 5: The three principles referred to are probably taken from a 2001 government document entitled; "The Decision to enhance and improve the conduct of the Communist Party".

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