Secret book reopens old divisions in China’s Communist Party

May 16th, 2009 - 10:10 am ICT by IANS  

By Bill Smith
Beijing, May 16 (DPA) A new book secretly written by a former leader has reopened 20-year-old divisions in China’s ruling Communist Party by advocating democratic reform, criticising other leaders and arguing that a bloody military crackdown could have been avoided.

In “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang”, Zhao argues that the party was wrong to categorise 1989 democracy protests as a “planned conspiracy” that grew into “counter-revolutionary rioting” and says 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 in excerpts from the book that were widely published online.

“Otherwise, this nation will not be able to have a market economy that is healthy and modern, nor can it become a modern society with a rule of law,” he said.

“Instead it will run into the situations that have occurred in so many developing countries, including China: commercialisation of power, rampant corruption, a society polarised between rich and poor.”

The book is scheduled to be launched officially next week in English by Simon and Schuster, with a Chinese version to follow at the end of the month.

Based on tape-recordings smuggled out of China, it covers two subjects: the 1989 protests and democratic reform.

Chinese leaders still often repeat the party’s official position that it will implement “gradual” democratic reform by allowing limited village elections, more openness in government affairs, and improving the rule of law.

They appeal to the Four Cardinal Principles associated with former leader Deng Xiaoping, who said that the most important of the four principles was to “uphold leadership by the party and to keep to the socialist road”.

Deng was China’s paramount leader in 1989 and his ideology is enshrined in the party’s constitution along with that of Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin and current leader Hu Jintao.

Zhao’s book accuses Li Peng, China’s premier in 1989, of publishing a key commentary in People’s Daily, the party’s official newspaper, without Deng’s knowledge.

That commentary by Li is considered to have signalled a hardening in the party’s attitude towards the 1989 demonstrators, who had urged the government to end corruption and allow democracy and other political and social rights.

The protests ended when troops with tanks and live ammunition moved through Beijing overnight on June 3-4, 1989, reportedly killing hundreds of unarmed civilians who allegedly blocked their route.

“On the night of June 3rd, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire,” Zhao said in his book.

“A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all,” he said.

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.

An official history of the Communist Party, in a chapter on the 1989 protests, said Zhao “encouraged and supported bourgeois liberalisation (and) became the representative within the party of those who supported the turmoil”.

The party placed him under house arrest from 1989 until his death in 2005.

Party leaders continue to reject calls for an investigation into the 1989 crackdown and prevent activists from holding public events to mark the anniversary of Zhao’s death.

In his memoirs, Zhao asks the party to reconsider its assessment of the 1989 democracy movement.

“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.

“Second, it was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the Communist Party. Where is the evidence?”

“I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system,” he said.

“After so many years, what evidence has been obtained through the interrogations? Have I been proven right, or have they?”

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