Thursday, May 14, 2009

For the Record

In what may be the biggest bomb to drop on the Chinese Communist Party this year is not a natural disaster, but a testimony from one of their own that they tried to silence.

Zhao Ziyang was Deng Xiaoping's right hand man, who had helped implement economic reforms 30 years ago and of which we see the fruits of the success.

But he was also the one who tried to stop the bloodshed on Tiananmen Square June 3-4.

During a Politburo Standing Committee meeting on May 17, 1989 at Deng's home where they discussed how to deal with the students protesting in the square, Zhao tried to urge leniency and communicate with them.

However, he was overruled by the hardliners who wanted to impose martial law. Zhao resigned as he said: "I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the General Secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on the students."

Powerless, Zhao had nothing to lose. Two days later he went to the square and with tears in his eyes he tried to urge the students to leave the area, but they didn't listen.

"On the night of June 3rd, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all."

After the bloody crackdown Zhao was under house arrest for 16 years until his death in 2005.

Despite being under surveillance, he was able to record his memoirs on 30 cassette tapes.

In some of them he talks as if conversing with someone, in others he is recording what he had written down.

He wanted to clear his name for the record and to tell the world what really happened in the days leading up to June 3-4.

And somehow, through the courage of his closest friends who were determined to visit him in his home under tight security, Zhao was able to have these tapes smuggled out of China and published by Bao Pu, his personal secretary's son in Hong Kong.

Prisoner of the State will be published in English this month by Simon & Schuster.

Zhao also talks about how there should be a multi-party system in China and a free press.

"In fact, it is the Western parliamentary democratic system that has demonstrated the most vitality," he says.

"If we don't move towards this goal, it will be impossible to resolve the abnormal conditions in China's market economy."

One can only wonder how the government will react to this book -- of course it will be banned in the country, but that won't prevent others from trying to read or listen to exerpts of it here and here.

How is it that the outside world knows the truth of 1989 and China's next generation not know at all? Now they will and mourn those who lost their youth and shake their faith in the only system they know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! I read about this in the Chinese paper (in New York). My dad and I can't wait to read the book! Thanks for the links so I can let me dad listen to the recordings.