A former aide releases the memoirs of China's late premier, shattering an
official silence on the June 1989 crackdown.
Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang
addresses student hunger-strikers, May 19, 1989.
HONG KONG—Twenty years after
the People's Liberation Army crushed the student-led pro-democracy movement in
China with guns and tanks, a former top Communist Party official has released
audio recordings in which former premier Zhao Ziyang calls for parliamentary
democracy for China.
Zhao, who fell into political disgrace in the wake
of the crackdown, described it in recordings as "a tragedy to shock the world,
which was happening in spite of attempts to avert it."
He recalls hearing
the sound of "intense gunfire" on the evening of June 3, 1989 while sitting at
his Beijing home, where he was held under house arrest until his death. He
concludes in extracts read from an unpublished political memoir that the only
way forward for China is a parliamentary democracy.
"Of course, it is
possible that in the future a more advanced political system than parliamentary
democracy will emerge," Zhao said. "But that is a matter for the future. At
present, there is no other."
He said China could not have a healthy
economic system, nor become a modern society with the rule of law without
"Instead, it will run into the situations that have occurred
in so many developing countries, including China: the commercialization of
power, rampant corruption, and a society polarized between rich and
Released by aide
Zhao's former political aide, Bao
Tong, who served a seven-year jail term in the wake of the crackdown, released
the tapes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the violent suppression of the 1989
student movement, in which hundreds, perhaps more than 1,000, died.
Ziyang left behind a set of audio recordings. These are his legacy," Bao wrote
from under house arrest at his Beijing home.
"Zhao Ziyang's legacy is for
all of China's people. It is my job to transmit them to the world in the form of
words and to arrange things," he said.
"Their contents have implications
for a history that is still influencing the people of China to this day. The key
theme of this history is reform," Bao said.
Authorities in Beijing
suppressed any public displays of grief for Zhao in the days after his death on
Jan. 17, 2005, detaining dozens of people for wearing white flowers in his honor
or attempting to pay their respects at the former premier's home.
was openly mourned by thousands in the former British colony of Hong Kong,
however, which is seen by many as a symbol of the territory's own struggle for
Educating China's youth
Bao said his
purpose in releasing the tapes, which he described as a "political task," was
partly to educate a whole generation of young people in China who had never
heard of Zhao Ziyang.
"On the mainland at the current time, this part of
history has been sealed off and distorted, so it will be useful to discuss some
of this history for younger readers."
"The name of Zhao Ziyang was erased
from news media, books and periodicals, and the historical record within China,"
Bao wrote in a six-part essay accompanying the tapes, titled "The Historical
Background to the Zhao Ziyang Recordings."
"Zhao wanted to address the
issues of official corruption and democracy which were the concerns of most
ordinary Chinese people, using the principle of the rule of law," Bao wrote of
the conflict between his former political mentor and late supreme leader Deng
"He wanted to instigate reforms of China's political system
alongside deepening economic reforms, concentrating the attention of the whole
of society onto the issue of reforms."
The Chinese authorities have
already begun tightening security in and around Beijing ahead of the sensitive
Articles and forum posts connected in any way to the events
of 20 years ago are being deleted regularly from Chinese cyberspace, including
an appeal for the rehabilitation of Zhao and Hu Yaobang, whose death on April
15, 1989 triggered the student movement.
Original reporting by RFA's Mandarin service. Mandarin
service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written in English by Luisetta
Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.