Purged officials reignite party divisions in China

June 4th, 2009 - 9:11 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 4 (DPA) Ignored by state media and the Chinese Communist Party, a book by purged party leader Zhao Ziyang has given renewed hope to dissidents in their 20-year campaign for justice over the brutal crackdown on the 1989 democracy protests at Tiananmen square.
Several former top officials conspired to ensure the publication of Zhao’s secretly tape-recorded book four years after his death. Chief among them was Bao Tong, Zhao’s aide in 1989, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1992.

He held out hope that the democracy protests of two decades ago would repeat themselves as today’s young people grow older.

“When they have a job and feel the unfairness, when they find the one-party rule is the root of this unfairness, … when they know the corruption threatens themselves, they will know that one-party rule should be changed,” he said.

The sensitive book, “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang”, supports open, multi-party democracy and media freedom and was published last month.

Zhao was removed from his post of party general secretary in June 1989 after opposing the use of force at Tiananmen square June 3-4, 1989, to stop the democracy protests. The military crackdown in central Beijing reportedly killed hundreds of unarmed civilians.

Zhao spent the rest of his life under house arrest until his death in 2005, writing his memoirs and then recording them on tapes that he placed in safekeeping with four retired ministers. They have now revived criticism of China’s former leaders.

Bao told DPA that Zhao and Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader at the time of the crackdown, differed greatly on the handling of the protests, and he supported Zhao’s argument that the bloodshed of 1989 was avoidable.

“On this issue, Deng and Zhao are completely opposite,” Bao said. “The way of thinking is opposite, the policy is opposite, the results are opposite.

“When they saw civilians protesting, Zhao believed that it was a petition, it was a movement. Deng believed that it was anti-socialism, anti-Communist Party.”

“Deng chose to crack down; Zhao chose dialogue,” Bao said.

Zhao’s book also accused Li Peng, China’s premier at the time, of publishing a key commentary in People’s Daily, the party’s official newspaper, without the knowledge of Deng.

That commentary, which said the protesters were aiming to overthrow the Communist Party, was considered to have signalled a hardening in the party’s attitude toward the demonstrators and provoked a defiant expansion of the protests.

Zhao said Deng bore ultimate responsibility for the military crackdown, arguing that without Deng changing his position, “There was no way for me to change the attitude of the two hardliners, Li Peng and (vice premier) Yao Yilin”.

Whenever Deng mentioned stability, “he also emphasised dictatorship”, Zhao said.

In his memoirs, Zhao argued that the party was wrong to categorise the 1989 democracy protests as a “planned conspiracy” that grew into “counter-revolutionary rioting” and said China should have developed a parliamentary democracy.

“If a country wishes to modernise, not only should it implement a market economy, it must also adopt a parliamentary democracy as its political system,” Zhao said.

He said China and other developing nations that failed to implement democratic reforms had common problems of “commercialisation of power, rampant corruption, (and) a society polarised between rich and poor.”

“If we had taken Zhao Ziyang’s policy during June 4, I think the (economic) status of China today would be no worse than South Korea, no worse than Taiwan,” Bao argued.

In his memoirs, Zhao asked the party to reconsider its assessment of the 1989 student protests.

“First, it was determined then that the student movement was ‘a planned conspiracy’ of anti-party, anti-socialist elements with leadership,” he said. “So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this?”

“It was also said that there were ‘black hands’ within the party. Then who were they?” Zhao asked.

Some commentators have expressed doubt that Zhao’s questions would be answered in their lifetimes. They portrayed today’s students and young, educated urban residents as a “me generation” with no interest in politics.

But Bao said he hoped that one day China’s young would rise up as the 1989 democracy protesters did.

“They avoid politics, they are frightened of politics, but it is not that they don’t like politics,” he argued, predicting they would take a stance as they got older.

The persecution of Zhao, Bao and hundreds of dissidents and petitioners across China are the “evil consequence of one-party rule”, he added.

“Now we have a small Tiananmen incident every day, at provincial, county, township and village level,” Bao said.

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