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Saturday, November 13, 2004


Could Zhao have led the struggle for democracy?

Zhao Ziyang, the former premier of the Peoples Republic of China and former Communist Party of China general secretary celebrated his 85th birthday in the quiet of his home in the Fuqiang Hutong district of Beijing on 17 October. He has been under house arrest since he was removed from his position 15 years ago, when the pro-democracy movement was violently suppressed in Tiananmen Square.

According to The Epoch Times, veteran party members and former CPC officials have pleaded for Zhao’s freedom. They claim that Zhao has been deprived of his rights as an ordinary citizen, rights which should be protected by China’s Constitution:

Hu Jiwei, once the chief editor of People’s Daily and a member of the Standing Committee of the Peoples’ Congress, was removed when the pro-democracy movement was suppressed with the Tiananmen Square massacre. He said, “I can’t remember how many times I’ve spoken out for Zhao. Limiting his freedom now doesn’t make any sense at all. Hu Jintao (the current Party General Secretary) emphasizes the importance of China’s constitution, and he is right. But he is facing two challenges. First, he must unconditionally comply with China’s constitution and protect peoples’ human rights, and secondly, he must firmly stop any unconstitutional acts, which include Zhao’s case.”

The Epoch Times also reported on the “Zhao Ziyang and China’s Reform" conference conducted by Columbia University’s Modern China Research Center on 16 October.

Yan Jiaqi, the former director of the China Institute of Political Science, spoke about two of Zhao’s major contributions to the PRC. First, he recalled the political and economic reforms during the 1980s. He said no one could beat Zhao’s contributions in initiating foreign capital.

Secondly, Zhao had advocated democratic and peaceful means to legally solve the student protests in Tiananmen Square. When Beijing was flooded with university students and teachers mourning the death of former CPC general secretary Hu Yaobang and calling for a rebirth of his democratic ideals, the CPC split.

Li Peng, the premier, had advocated a crackdown on the students, while Zhao had pressed for dialogue and compromise. Zhao was overruled, and eventually accused of splitting the party by siding with the students. He was deprived of his political career and confined to his house, where he remains today.

Yan suggested that if China had been able to follow Zhao’s leadership, the country would be more democratic today. He also said that if Zhao ever gets the opportunity to guide the market economy, establish China’s economic base and implement democratic principles, China will be able to take its place in a peaceful and democratic way in the 21st century.

Hu Ping, chief editor of Beijing Spring magazine, said that looking back over these 15 years, he has seen that time only makes evil stronger. While people’s memories have grown dim, the evil permeates and corrodes people’s thinking. Since 1989, although Chinese society has changed drastically, hardly any abuse seems surprising anymore.

According to Hu, the government now openly uses violence against its people, acts that would have been unimaginable in the 1980s.

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