Full Citation

  • Title Chapter IV The Student Movement
  • Author Chiang, Monlin
  • Publication Title The China Mission Year Book
  • Date 1919
  • Page Number 45
  • Language English
  • Document Type Essay
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library National Library of China
Chapter IV The Student Movement Monlin Chiang The student movement may be considered as a turning point of China’s national history. The dismissal of the “traitors” and the refusal of China to sign the peace treaty at Versailles, however important in themselves, are less significant and far-reaching in their results than the ascendancy of the popular voice in China. The people have learned that the strength of their concerted action is much stronger than armed 'force. The government was finally brought to terms by the popular movement. Even officials at Peking have awakened at last to the fact that after all public opinion cannot be disregarded entirely. Causes There are several causes underlying the student movement. First, the end of the World War and the defeat of Germany set the students to thinking seriously. They began to wonder why. , the military-efficient Germans were defeated by the Allies. They began to hear that democracy had won a victory over militarism. So they began to reason that if they could unite and make their voices heard, they might bring about social and political reforms in China. Second, the critical spirit of the professors of the National University of Peking had lead the students to such a mental attitude that they began to doubt everything traditional — traditional ideas of literature, of the family, of society and government. Thirdly, the corruption of the Peking Government as well as of the Canton Government, made the students begin to feel that both of the governments could not be trusted with the duty of carrying out the much-desired reforms in China. They were ready to take direct action in matters of state, ■if there should be a hhance. “ ' - Before the students of Peking showed any sign of the demonstration of May 4, some of the leaders in the new educational movement, who had been” observing the spirit of unrest among the students, predicted that something was going to happen. The international politics in Paris supplied fuel to the already burning desire of the students to strike. All of a sudden there came the news that by the decision of the Supreme Council in Paris the German rights in Shantung were given over to Japan. This set the whole country in indignation and hundreds of telegrams poured into Peking and Paris from various parts of the country protesting against the high-handed policy of Japan. The Peking officials were blamed by the people for making secret' ** agreements ” or “understandings” with Japan. Who Were . was argued that there must be some Responsible? high officials yin the Peking Government who were responsible for the whole matter of losing Kiaochow, The whole country fixed the responsibility upon three men whom the people denounced as “traitors”: Chao du-lin, the Minister of Communication, Lu Chung-yn, Minister of Finance, and Chang Chung-ht&ang, Minister at Tokyo who had just returned from Japan on leave. These three men were known to the people as being responsible for the pro-Japanese policy of the Pekfhg_jGovernment. The Fourth _ _JTL students^ from thirtyof May three schools and colleges in Peking, fifteen thousand strong, paraded the streets as a demonstration against- the Shantung decision. Three thousand of them went to the Legation Quarter to ask the Allied ministers to use their good offices to secure justice for China. They were prevented by the police from entering l the-Legation grounds. After-standing at the entrance for two hours the crowd turned away and went to the residence ot Chao Ju-lin. The crowd demanded - that he appear m person and explain to them why he made the secret agreements with Japan by virtue of which he sold ; Shantung to her. The gates .of Chao’s palatial mansions were closed and guarded by the police. But the maddened crowd forced the gates open and rushed in. Everythin® 1 in he. lavishly-furnished rooms was smashed to pieces by the angry crowd, oome of the buildings were set on fire. It happened that Lu Chung-yu and Chang Chung-hsiang, the other' two “ traitors/ 3 were at Chao’s house. Both Chad and Lu escaped, but Chang, was unfortunately" caught and beaten to unconsciousness by the crowd. ■ Then the reenforcement of the police appeared on the scene and the crowd was dispersed by the police at the point of the bayonet. Thirty-two students were arrested and brought to. the Metropolitan Police Station. Cabinet Meeting The cabinet members met at the private ■ residence of Premier Chien in the evening. Some of the members advocated the. dissolving of the National-University. Others recommended the dismissal of Chancellor Tsai Yuan-pei of the National University. But the Minister of Education, Mr. Fu Chung-shang, refused to' accept the recommendations. - Next morning it was reported that Chang Chung-hsiang was dead and, the' students arrested were summarily sentenced to death ’by the military authority. The presidents of fourteen higher educational institutions went to the Chief of Police and demanded' the release of the students. The Chief of Police assured the presidents that the students were safe with him, but he had no authority to release them. The Peking students refused to attend the classes as a protest aginst the arrest of their fellow students. They declared that they would not return to work until the thirty -three students were released. On May 7, the boys were released and welcomed back to their respective institutions as heroes amidst acclamations-and tears. The next day a presidential mandate was issued instructing the authorities to prosecute the students who were ringleaders for the popular demonstration. This resulted in hundreds of protests being sent to Peking by educational bodies from various parts of the country. The- resignation of Chancellor Tsai on May 9 caused another great sensation among the students. ' Thanks to the good offices -of' the Minister of Education, Mr, Pu Chung-shang, the resignation of the chancellor was not accepted, Mr, Fu’s policy of moderation displeased his colleagues in the Cabinet and, on May 19, he resigned his post as Minister of Education. Both the chancellor and the minister left Peking as soon as they sent in their resignations. Street Lectures The students petitioned the president asking for the return of Mr, Pu and Dr. Tsai to their respective offices, the dismissal of the traitors 8 ” and that the treaty of peace with Germany be not signed. The government 'did not pay any attention to the petition except that a mandate was issued on the fourteenth of May refusing to accept the chancellor's resignation. The mandate was couched in such a language that any one could feel that the government meant that his services in the university was no longer needed. Therefore, the students began to make appeals to the people by lecturing in the streets of Peking. The interference of the police caused some conflicts between the students and the police, but nothing serious Jiappened. On May 30, the Students 9 Union in Peking declared a general strike of all the students in Peking. The students were, thus released from work and came out in large numbers delivering lectures in the streets. The police were helpless in coping with the situation. The government called ont the troops to break up the crowds that were listening to the lectures of the street orators. " ' Student. Since the strike of the students declared Strikes P n May 20, other cities were falling rapidly into line. The students in Tientsin declared a sympathetic, strike on May 23, in Tsinan on the 24th, in Shanghai on the 26th, in Nanking on the 27th, m Paotingfu on the 28th, in Anldng on, the 80th, and m Hangkow, Wuchang, and Eaifeng on the 31st. By the end of May,- student strikes had spread practically all over China. The government had utterly ignored the fact that the feelings of the people throughout the whole country had been stirred to the highest pitch. On June 1, two offensive mandates were issued simulone eulogizing the good work done by tbe traitors 99 and the other reprimanding the students for their misconduct. £ By way of .protest against the fpolimrdy; Students policies of the government, the students in Peking went mad and thousands of them went out to lecture in. the streets, braving the bayonets of. the armed police and soldiers. The government finally resorted to a drastic but foolish measure by ordering the wholesale arrest of a large number of students that were lecturing in the streets. On June 3 and 4, in two' days, the police- and soldiers arrested more than one thousand students. Finding no prison - large enough to hold- so many prisoners, the authorities took possession of the National University and converted the- seat of learning into a prison. They did not take into account the difficulty of feeding moie than a thousand students and no adequate preparations were made. So the boys had to stay in the “ prison ” without food for some time. Nothing other than this would have aroused so much sympathy, for the students on the part of the public. Business Strikes The Peking students sent a telegram; in the afternoon of June 4 asking the students in Shanghai to help. In the evening the Shanghai students went out in large numbers to the shops, asking the merchants to help by declaring a general sympathetic strike. The shopkeepers responded generously by closing their shops the next morning. On June 5, all Shanghai was on strike. The government was by this action forced to release the imprisoned students on June 6. - On that day the shops in other cities in the vicinity of Shanghai- were also closed to .business. Sungkiang, Ningpo, Amoy, Nanking, Hangchow, Wusih, Wuhu, Hankow, Tsinan, and other cities also fell rapidly into line, - - Demands Made Now all the classes of the. people united together in demanding the dismissal of the ‘ 5 traitors.” On - June 10* the resignations of the "traitors” were accepted by the president. Shanghai did not receive authentic news until in the afternoon of June 1.1. On the next morning, June 12, _ all the shops in Shanghai opened again to business; Thus the people, by their united effort, won a victory over the government. Yo china. During the strikes, as necessity demanded, Organizing the People organized' themselves in order to do effective work. The -strikes taught the people that their strength lies in organization. So the students as well as the merchants began to organize themselves in a permanent manner. During the strikes, hundreds of students 5 unions sprang- up in many places all over the country like bamboo shoots. On June 16, “ The "National Chinese Students’- Alliance s'’5 '’ was' organized in Shanghai. Representatives were sent to Shanghai from various local unions to participate in the formation of the national alliance. By the declaration of this national organization, on June 22, the nation-wide student strikes came to an end. * - In Shanghai the merchants organized themselves by the streets where their business houses are located. . Each street formed a union and, by uniting together .all the “ street unions, 55 a central organization was formed knownas s "The Federation of the Street Unions of Shanghai. 55 In Tientsin, all the classes of people incorporated themselves into one organization which is called ‘ ‘ The Federation of All Classes. 5 5 The membership of the organization consists of the students 5 union, the educational association, the merchants 5 union, the labor union, etc. Other, cities like Peking and Shanghai soon followed suit. In Shanghai a national organization ■ was formed which is called “ The* National Alliance of the Federations ,of All- Glasses. 55 These various organizations are serving now as the controlling forces of public opinion in China. Wh-t After this nation-wide student movement. Students Are students in China are carrying on their Doing work in two lines, namely, social service and a- “ cultural movement. 55 The forms of social service being carried on are the opening of schools’ and the giving of popular lectures. In Shanghai -and its vicinity, the students have established eight schools, three for poor children, two for laborers, two for farmers, and one for country boys. Schools of these kinds have also been established by the students in Nanking, Peking, and other cities. Lectures are delivered to the' masses by the students on such topics, as public hygiene, patriotism, the boycott of Japanese goods, etc. The “cultural movement” aims to spread new ideas among the, educated classes. Since May about three hundred and fifty weekly bulletins •, have been published, either by the students or by those who sympathize with the students. These weeklies .are usually printed on one sheet of paper, half the size of a daily paper, doubled over, making four pages. By glancing • over these papers, one ■will find topics discussed 'such as. these: “What is the meaning of life?” “Emancipation of women,” “The curse of militarism in China,” - “The problem of . coeducation in China,” “The future of the - Chinese language,” “Why we should adopt the vernacular language,” “ The reorganization of 'the family system in China,” “The change of the. marriage system in China, etc.- Most of these papers attack the existing order of things in China' ana advocate revolution in literature, in society, in family,, in' thought, and in a thousand and one lines. The day of the critical spirit is dawning upon China. Besides the new publications, the students have organized public lecture courses. Prominent persons are invited to talk on timely subjects. Young China has become discontented with the old ways of living and old modes of thinking. She is now looking forward to a new and richer life.