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May 22, 1989 – The eyes of the world (at least most of it) were focused on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, as protests to the hardline government of Li Peng were growing in intensity. The Chinese government declared martial law on May 20th and mobilized at least 30 divisions from five of the country’s seven military regions. At least 14 of PLA’s 24 army corps contributed troops. As many as 250,000 troops were eventually sent to the capital, some arriving by air and others by rail. Guangzhou’s civil aviation authorities put regular airline tickets on hold to prepare for transporting military units.
The army’s entry into the city was blocked at its suburbs by throngs of protesters. Tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded military vehicles, preventing them from either advancing or retreating. Protesters lectured soldiers and appealed to them to join their cause; they also provided soldiers with food, water, and shelter. Seeing no way forward, the authorities ordered the army to withdraw on 24 May. All government forces retreated to bases outside the city. While the Army’s withdrawal was initially seen as ‘turning the tide’ in favor of protesters, in reality mobilization took place across the country for a final assault.
It was a wait-and-see game with fears the Army would crack down violently against the protestors – though many refused to believe the PLA would turn on its own people. Still, no one knew for sure how this story was going to end.
Meanwhile, the campaign to oust Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was continuing. Opposition leaders were visiting factories in Panama City in a bid to continue the ouster campaign and to rally support from workers. In the meantime, a team from the Organization of American States was slated to arrive in Panama, hoping to negotiate Noriega’s departure.
All that, and much-much more for this May 22, 1989 as presented by CBS Radio News and The World Tonight.