Politics & Protest SinoBeat

Tiananmen 30 years on: Where were China’s top leaders of today on June 4, 1989?

The June 4 Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 halted months of student-led demonstrations in China as the military was deployed in Beijing killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. 

Chinese officials tend to reach the country’s top positions when they are in their 50s or 60s. As students were protesting and demanding democracy in Beijing, many of the incumbent top officials were in their 30s, gaining experience at the local government level.

Among the 25 members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo, 23 are from non-military backgrounds. Only five of them were in Beijing in 1989, including Premier Li Keqiang. 

40th anniversary china opening

Xi Jinping. Photo: CCTV screenshot.

Politburo Standing Committee members:

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party

Xi, born in 1953, was the district party secretary in Ningde, Fujian Province in 1989.

A Ming Pao column on China news – written under a pen name – published on June 4 last year cited an unidentified person as saying that Xi spoke to students at Ningde’s top school – the current Ningde Normal University – in May 1989. But the column did not provide details on Xi’s alleged discussion.

Li Keqiang

Li Keqiang. Photo: Screenshot.

Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council

Li, born in 1955, was a member of the Communist Youth League’s Central Committee Secretariat, concurrently the vice chairman of the All-China Youth Federation in 1989. Both positions were in Beijing.

Li was in charge of schools in 1989. According to accounts by activist Wang Juntao and official-turned-dissident Fang Jue, Li had helped top-level officials of the party in May 1989 to persuade students to go back to school. But Fang claimed in his article that Li had supported clearance of the movement on June 4.

Li Zhanshu

Li Zhanshu. Photo: Kremlin.

Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee 

Li, born in 1950, was the secretary of the Communist Youth League Hebei Provincial Committee in 1989. Hebei Province was the closest province to Beijing.

Wang Yang

Wang Yang. Photo: Kremlin.

Wang Yang, Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

Wang, born in 1955, was the deputy secretary of Tongling Municipal Communist Party Committee in Anhui Province. He was also mayor of Tongling.

Wang Huning

Wang Huning. File Photo: RFA.

Wang Huning, Secretary of the Central Secretariat

Wang, born in 1955, was a professor at the Department of International Politics of Fudan University in Shanghai in 1989, becoming dean of the department that year.

In August 1988, he won a scholarship to spend six months in the US as a visiting scholar, according to an article by Chinese scholar Wang Yi. Wang Huning stayed at Iowa University and the University of California, Berkeley, among others.

According to the Ming Pao column last year, Wang moved to France for three months after the Tiananmen Massacre.

Zhao Leji

Zhao Leji. File Photo: GovCN.

Zhao Leji, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection

Zhao, born in 1957, was the deputy director and party committee deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce in Qinghai Province in 1989.

Han Zheng

Han Zheng. Photo: GovHK.

Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council

Han, born in 1954, was the party committee secretary and deputy director of the Shanghai Dazhonghua Rubber Factory in 1989.


Politburo members who were in Beijing in 1989:

Chen Xi, Head of the Organization Department

Chen, born in 1953, was a Standing Committee member of Tsinghua University’s Communist Party Committee.

Wang Chen, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

Wang, born in 1950, was the deputy editor-in-chief of national newspaper Guangming Daily in 1989.

Liu He

Liu He. Photo: United States Department of State.

Liu He, Vice Premier of the State Council

Liu, born in 1952, was the deputy chief of the Industrial Structure Section of the Industrial Policy Department of the National Planning Commission in 1989.

Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs

Yang, born in 1950, was the counsellor and concurrently office director at the Department of Translation and Interpretation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1989.


Politburo members with military backgrounds:

Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission

Xu, born in 1950, was the acting deputy commander of the Chinese Air Force’s 8th Army in 1989, before promotion to chief of staff that year.

Xu Qiliang

Xu Qiliang. Photo: GovCN.

Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission

Zhang, born in 1950, was the deputy commander of the Chinese Ground Force’s 14th Group Army of the 40th Division in 1989.


Other Politburo members:

Ding Xuexiang, Director of the General Office

Ding, born in 1962, was the general office director and publicity department head of the Shanghai Materials Research Institute in 1989.

Sun Chunlan, Vice Premier of the State Council

Sun, born in 1950, was the director of the Anshan Municipal Women’s Federation in Liaoning Province in 1989.

Sun Chunlan

Sun Chunlan. Photo: GovCN.

Li Xi, Party Secretary of Guangdong

Li, born in 1956, was the deputy chief of the Section for Official Staffing, Organization Department of the Gansu Provincial Communist Party Committee in 1989.

Li Qiang, Party Secretary of Shanghai

Li, born in 1959, was the chief of the Rural Poverty Relief Office, Zhejiang Provincial Department of Civil Affairs in 1989.

Li Hongzhong, Party Secretary of Tianjin

Li, born in 1956, was on secondment as the vice mayor of Huizhou in Guangdong Province in 1989.

Hu Chunhua, Vice Premier of the State Council

Hu, born in 1963, was the deputy secretary of Communist Youth League Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee in 1989.

Hu Chunhua

Hu Chunhua. Photo: GovCN.

Yang Xiaodu, Director of the National Supervisory Commission

Yang, born in 1953, was the deputy commissioner of Nagqu Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1989.

Between 1988 and 1989, he took a one-year training course for young and middle-aged officials at the Central Party School.

Chen Quanguo, Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Chen, born in 1955, was the secretary of the Suiping County Party Committee in Henan Province in 1989.

Chen Quanguo

Chen Quanguo. Photo: GovCN.

Chen Min’er, Party Secretary of Chongqing

Chen, born in 1960, was a Standing Committee member of the Shaoxing County Party Committee in Zhejiang Province in 1989, as well as the head of the Publicity Department of the Shaoxing County Party Committee.

He was moved to deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Shaoxing Municipal Party Committee later that year.

Guo Shengkun, Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission

Guo, born in 1954, was the manager of the Huameiao Tungsten Mine of the China National Nonferrous Metals Industry Corporation in 1989.

Huang Kunming, Head of the Propaganda Department

Huang, born in 1956, was the deputy director of the General Office of Longyan Prefecture in Fujian Province in 1989.

Cai Qi, Party Secretary of Beijing

Cai, born in 1955, was the office secretary – director level – of the General Office of the Fujian Provincial Party Committee in 1989.


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Tiananmen 30 years on: Where were China's top leaders of today on June 4, 1989?