NEW YORK -- Documents reportedly brought out of China by a disaffected civil servant say that the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the violent crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square out of fear they could topple the Communist regime.
The documents reveal deep-seated paranoia that the protests were controlled by unknown anti-communist conspirators and anxiety by the party's top leaders that the more than 1 million demonstrators gathered on Tiananmen Square could demand their arrest.
"After thinking long and hard about this, I've concluded that we should bring in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and declare martial law in Beijing," Deng was quoted as saying at a meeting held at the Party Central Office on May 18, 1989.
The documents say Deng was encouraged by several members of his inner circle, including Wang Zhen, who said, "The students are nuts if they think this handful of people can overthrow our Party and our government."
Two weeks later, troops using live ammunition moved in on the demonstrators, ending seven weeks of pro-democracy protests in Beijing. Hundreds were killed on June 4, 1989 and thousands arrested in a nationwide crackdown.
The comments by Deng and Zhen -- together with what are said to be minutes of secret high-level meetings, Chinese intelligence reports and records of Deng's private phone calls -- appear in the "The Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese Leadership's Decision to Use Force Against Their Own People."
Among other things, the papers appear to verify what many China scholars have long suspected: that hard-liners within the Communist Party urged Deng to use force to suppress students while reformers called for a more democratic solution.
The book published by Public Affairs is excerpted in the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, and CBS' "60 Minutes" posted portions of an interview with the civil servant, who uses the pseudonym Zhang Liang, on its Web site Friday.
Zhang, who describes himself as a Communist Party member sympathetic to reformers, now resides outside of China. He said he did not use his real name because he intended one day to return to Beijing.
If genuine, the documents offer a rare glimpse into the motivations and fears behind the communist leadership's decision to order the troops into Tiananmen Square, one of the most tragic and defining moments of recent Chinese history.
The book was co-edited by Andrew Nathan, a professor of political science at Columbia University, and Perry Link, a professor of Chinese language and literature at Princeton University, who told The Associated Press the documents are consistent with the smattering of information already available outside of China and with the testimonies of other former officials who have since fled.
The two professors, both well-known China experts, also spent hours interviewing the former civil servant, who they say painstakingly transcribed original records from files in Beijing and elsewhere onto computer disks, which he brought with him out of China.
The book only contains brief excepts from the disks, which, if printed out, would total about 15,000 pages in English. Members of the Communist Party in Beijing could not be reached Friday to comment on the authenticity of the papers.
Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school at the University of California-Berkeley and author of several books on China, worked with Nathan and Perry. He said he was skeptical about the authenticity of the documents at first.
"Everyone involved in this project went on an odyssey from skepticism to belief that these were genuine," he said. "The most important thing was to be able to talk with the compiler."
He said the author's extensive knowledge of inner workings of Chinese government and the clarity of his motive in releasing documents -- helping reformers now jockeying for position in Beijing -- helped convince him that the work was legitimate.
According to the documents, Li Peng, then China's premier, warned Deng on May 17, 1989 that protesters shouting anti-party and anti-socialist slogans were calling for the government to step down.
"The spear is now pointed directly at you and the others of the elder generation of proletarian revolutionaries," he said.
Two days after the violent crackdown, Deng reportedly defended the decision in a Central Politburo Standing Committee meeting.
"If we hadn't been firm with these counterrevolutionary riots -- if we hadn't come down hard -- who knows what might have happened? The PLA has suffered a great deal; we owe them a lot, we really do.
"If the plots of the people who were pushing the riots had gotten anywhere, we'd have had civil war," he said.
In another meeting of the Party Central Office, Deng said: "A tiny minority is exploiting the students; they want to confuse the people and throw the country into chaos. This is a well-planned plot whose real aim is to reject the Chinese Communist Party."
Nathan said the documents showed just how deep the divisions were within the party.
"But one thing we learn is that the split within the top leadership on how to deal with student movement was very, very intense," said Nathan, who was sought out by the civil servant to help compile the notes into a book. It is a rift, he said, that still exists today.
The records reveal that if left to their own preferences the three-man majority of the Politburo Standing Committee would have voted to persist in dialogue with the students instead of declaring martial law.
But, according to the Tiananmen papers, the standing committee was obligated by a secret intra-party resolution to refer any stalemate to Deng and the other senior revolutionaries.
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