China decided that it had no choice but to "spill some blood" during the Tiananmen Square massacre in order to preserve stability, a new memoir by a top leader of the time has claimed.
The phrase, attributed to China's then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, appears in a previously suppressed diary which publishers say will lift the veil of secrecy over how the decision was made to send in the tanks on the night of June 3-4.
Leaked extracts of the diary said to be by Li Peng, the hardline former head of China's government in 1989 who is most deeply associated with the bloody crackdown, appeared yesterday as dissidents commemorated the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square.
The measures for martial law must be steady-handed, and we must minimise harm, but we must prepare to spill some blood," Deng told officials on May 19 1989, according to a copy of the manuscript.
Mr Li, now 81 and reportedly in frail health, is said to have written his diary to justify his own role in the killings and to counter long-standing beliefs in China that it he pressured Deng Xiaoping into ordering the use of lethal force.
"From the beginning of the turmoil, I have prepared for the worst," Mr Li is quoted as saying.
"I would rather sacrifice my own life and that of my family to prevent China from going through a tragedy like the Cultural Revolution," he added, referring to a period of bitter political in-fighting in China from 1966-76.
The memoirs come a year after the publication of the secret memoirs of Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party general secretary, who Premier Li helped push from office for seeking to negotiate with the protestors.
The publishers say they taken every possible to assess the authenticity of the memoirs which were passed to them through a middle-man, but admit that some doubts remain which will set out in a footnote to the book that will come out later this month.
News of the Li Peng memoir came as an estimated 50,000 people, many of them students, gathered in Hong Kong's Victoria Park for the annual candlelit vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre.
All mention of the "Tiananmen Incident" is suppressed in mainland China, with the authorities banning any mention in the state-controlled media, although former dissidents expressed their feeling through online forums.
It was quiet in central Beijing on Friday as black cars marked "special police" - each manned with two armed officers wearing helmets and flak jackets - patrolled at regular intervals.
However, in a message to mark the anniversary, Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou said that China must learn the lessons from 1989 and be more tolerant toward dissidents if it wants to convince the rest of the world of its good intentions.
Mr Ma urged Beijing to adopt "a brand new approach to human rights issues and [to] convince the world that the rise of mainland China was peaceful and would embody the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights." Elsewhere another of the leading figures of the 1989 movement, the student activist Wu'er Kaixi who was listed as number two on the government's "most wanted" list, was arrested trying enter the Chinese embassy in Tokyo.
Now 42, Wu'er Kaixi, became a celebrity overnight after he dared to interrupt Li Peng during a meeting between student leaders and politicians that was aired live on state television on May 18, 1989.
Last year, on the 20th anniversary of the massacre Wu'er Kaixi tried to enter Macau to hand himself over to the authorities, but was refused entry and deported back to Taiwan where he has been living in exile.
After returning to Taipei he said at the time: "I am deeply saddened that I have not been able to see my family for 20 years and that my intention to return by turning myself in was barred.
"The Chinese government is avoiding something that happened 20 years ago...
I am wanted in China but I cannot even turn myself in. Is China really a confident, great nation?"
By Peter Foster in Beijing
Published: 9:00PM BST 04 Jun 2010