In 1978, stimulated by the opening of China to the West and also by the "reversal of verdicts" against the 1976 Tiananmen protesters (These demonstrations against the gang of four had been condemned as counter-revolutionary at the time but were now declared a revolutionary act), thousands of Chinese began to put their thoughts into words, their words onto paper and their paper onto walls to be read by passers by. The most famous focus of these displays became a stretch of blank wall just to the west of the former forbidden city in Beijing, part of which was now a museum and park and part the cluster of residences for China's most senior National leaders. Because of the frankness of some of these posters and the message that some measure of democratic freedom should be introduced in China, this Beijing area became known as Democracy Wall.
The background to the Democracy Wall movement was the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four Period and the April Fifth movement, which opposed the Gang. Many of the views expressed during the Democracy Wall movement regarding the corruption of the party and its lack of legitimacy as a representative of the people are directly related to the main concerns of the Cultural Revolution Rebels and indeed many of the same people, both workers and former students were involved.
The Democracy Wall Movement was a movement for what its participants regarded as real democracy. This was not generally the Western Parliamentary variety but was .
Described by Wei Jingsheng as the holding of power by the labouring masses themselves. True Democracy for him was the right of the people to choose their own representatives who will work according to their will and in their interests. Furthermore the people must always have the power to replace their representatives so that these representatives cannot go on deceiving others in the name of the people.
Primarily the movement demanded that the Chinese people be allowed to exercise the rights which had long existed on paper, including the right s of free speech and freedom of assembly, freedom of organisation and freedom of publication.