Why I Published 'The Tiananmen Papers'

The Chinese leadership’s penchant for secretiveness is proverbial. But the veil that exists over how that omnipotent party makes important decisions is being lifted somewhat because a volume of unique materials about the behind-the-scenes events surrounding the infamous Tiananmen massacre of 1989 is being published this month.

The materials contained in that book, which I brought out of China and decided to make public, consist of hundreds of documents, including minutes and transcripts of meetings at which the most important leaders of the People’s Republic deliberated on how to handle the Tienanmen demonstrations; key speeches; notes on crucial telephone conversations between leaders; classified reports from security agencies; and dispatches from the police and military. Taken as a whole, these documents provide a rare glimpse into the modus operandi of China’s leaders.

As a witness and participant in the Tiananmen events, and as someone with access to the historical archive, I felt it my duty to publish this record of the decisions that lay behind what happened. The real truth of what happened in l989 was locked in secret Party archives in Beijing for over a decade. I chose to involve myself in this personally risky project because I believe those who wish to serve China must reflect deeply on the lessons of the Tiananmen events. Despite undergoing great changes in the years since 1989, China needs not only to reverse the verdict on the June 4th movement as "a counter-revolutionary rebellion," but also to restart its stalled process of political reform and democratization. I believe that these documents will help serve those elusive ends.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you are agreeing to our Terms and Conditions.

Log in


Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.