One the occasion of the 32th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, I re-post an article written in January 2005.
Two years ago, during the monthly briefing by senior Colonel Wu Qian, the spokesman of
the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, a correspondent asked if the
People's Liberation Army had any comment on the suppression of students
30 years ago.
Wu Qian replied: "I don't agree with the word
'suppression' in your question."
He added "Over the past 30 years, the
process of our reform and development and our stability and achievements
have already addressed your question."
Even this was deleted from the official transcript of the Press Conference...
It shows that China has not been nervous for a long time...
From Rediff.com, The Day Chinese Glasnost Died.
Did Zhao Ziyang die on January 8 or did he die on the morning of January 17? That is a million yuan question!
On the same day in 1976, another Chinese leader, its Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, passed away.
Zhou died, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had just ended.
Modern China had gone through its 10 most tormented years.
previous months, Mao had refused to provide treatment for his premier
who had cancer; the Emperor wanted Zhou to die before him.
Even in Communist China, there is protocol!
fact, the problem was that the premier was more popular than the Great
Helmsman with the masses. Zhou's death was observed by Dr Zhisui Li,
Mao's private physician who commented: 'What worried me most was the
power struggle to follow.'
In Beijing, memories of the Cultural
Revolution purges were still fresh in the populace's psyche. Though
resentment was growing, nothing could be done openly as yet.
time, the Chinese New Year was approaching. When Mao decided to
celebrate the event with firecrackers, the crowd outside Zhongnanhai
(the residential enclave where Politburo members live) thought the
Chairman rejoiced over his premier's death. Anger mounted, but the
people of Beijing had to wait a few more weeks to express their respect
for the deceased leader.
Dr Li wrote: 'Beginning in mid-March,
knowing that the Qing Ming festival for honoring the dead would be
celebrated on April 4, the citizens of Beijing began going to the
Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes in Tiananmen Square to place
mourning wreaths for Zhou. The movement was spontaneous, and the crowds
grew larger by the day. The country had not witnessed such an outpouring
of popular sentiment since before the Communists came to power in
As April 4 approached, Dr Li visited Tiananmen clandestinely:
'The Square was filled with tens of thousands of people singing, making
speeches, and reading poems. The mourning wreaths stretched from the
Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes in the centre of the square all the
way to Changan Avenue just in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and
thousands of banners were flapping in the breeze. It was impressive and
A similar event occurred 13 years later.
In 1989, though
Hu Yaobang had been sacked as the secretary general of the Chinese
Communist Party in January 1987, he was still a member of the Politburo
and entitled to attend important meetings. On April 9, after uttering
some strong words on the Communist Party's failures, the respected Hu
Yaobang had a stroke. A week later he passed away.
Zhao Zhiang, then
secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party, made the customary
brief assessment of Hu's life: 'Comrade Hu was a loyal, tried and tested
Communist fighter, a great proletarian revolutionary and politician, an
outstanding political worker for the army.'
It was agreed that Hu
would have a national funeral service with the norms of standing members
of the Politburo. The plan was accepted by all the party's senior
leaders including Deng Xiaoping. During that meeting, Zhao requested
Qiao Shi, No 3 in the party and responsible for security, to 'keep a
close watch on how Comrade Yaobang's death might impact society.' Qiao
Shi is said to have replied: 'At the moment, society is in pretty good
shape, Things are fairly stable.'
In the afternoon of April 17, 600
students of the Chinese University of Political Science and Law marched
into Tiananmen Square with mourning banners and wreaths. They were
10,000 by the evening.
The next day, students and onlookers poured in
from Beijing University and other places. Wreaths accumulated in front
of the Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes.
The rest is history.
It was the beginning of the largest spontaneous student revolution since 1919.
the following days and weeks, the students demanded freedom of speech
and the press, democratic elections, greater transparency in government
The pretext for the explosion of the students' ire was the
fact that Hu Yaobang had been sacked though he had followed 'correct'
policies. They demanded that the government 'should affirm as correct Hu
Yaobang's views on democracy and freedom.' When the People's Daily
termed the first spontaneous demonstrations as 'turmoil', the events
took a new turn. For the students, the word 'turmoil' (dongluan) had a
strong meaning in Chinese reminiscent of the black days of the Cultural
One man played a major role in the Tiananmen events --
Zhao Ziyang. Having the same conviction as Hu Yaobang, he thought that a
possibility of political reform existed in Communist China. During the
following weeks, he constantly tried to negotiate a compromise with the
students. This could have changed the Middle Kingdom's fate.
his collaborators, Wu Guoguang, remembered in Time magazine: 'In the
wrong place at the wrong time, Zhao Ziyang did the right thing. It was
close to midnight on the night of May 19, 1989. China's leaders were
finalising their plans to declare martial law and crush the Tiananmen
Square democracy protests that had, in the preceding 48 hours, swelled
to include more than a million demonstrators.
Zhao, then general
secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, might have remained with the
commissars inside Beijing's Great Hall of the People as they called in
the troops. Instead, stooped with fatigue, tears in his eyes, he waded
into the throngs of students and in the gathering darkness pleaded with
them to abandon their vigil before it was too late.'
earlier Zhau had received Mikhail Gorbachev, then general secretary of
the Soviet Union Communist Party. Was Zhao trying to emulate his Soviet
counterpart when he spoke to the students? The Chinese leader told
Gorbachev, 'Some young people now had doubts about the superiority of
socialism, that these doubts arose from genuine problems with the Party
leadership and certain entrenched habits, and that the only way out for
socialism was continued vigorous reforms.'
This view was certainly
not shared by all in the standing committee of the Politburo. Just after
Zhao had met Gorbachev, an important meeting was held, the verdict was
split: two members were in favour of using force against the students,
two were for a continuation of the dialogue and one, Qiao Shi,
The next day, the matter was referred to Deng Xiaoping.
Zhao had told Gorbachev: 'Even though Deng Xiaoping had retired from his
Party posts in 1987, the Party had recognised that his wisdom and
experience were essential and that for the most important questions he
would still be at the helm.'
Deng decided to use force. On May 20,
the martial law order was signed by Prime Minister Li Peng. Two days
later, Zhao Ziyang was sacked and Jiang Zemin was called from Shanghai
to replace him.
During the night of June 3, Li Peng ordered the tanks
to roll on the Square. Between 3,000 and 10000 students lost their
lives that night. The Party was saved and the fate of China was sealed
(at least for the next few decades). One of the many ironies was that Li
Peng was Zhou Enlai's adopted son.
On October 17, 2004, Zhao
celebrated his 75th birthday. The Human Rights in China group reported:
'In the past three days large groups of people have been gathering
outside Zhao's Beijing home, requesting permission to see him. The
groups, which range in size from a dozen to upwards of 100 people, seem
to be made up largely of Zhao's former subordinates and his close
friends and relatives.'
On the same day, a group of senior Chinese
citizens and Zhao's supporters wrote to President Hu Jintao and Premier
Wen Jiabao about Zhao's continuous detention: 'We strongly urge that you
unconditionally and immediately release Mr Zhao Ziyang from house
arrest, restore his freedom, and resume all his civil rights!
matter how the CPC (Chinese Communist Party and its government would now
judge the 1989 political storm and whether Mr Zhao was right or wrong
at that time, as a citizen of the People's Republic of China, his civil
rights ought to be respected and protected. Without due legal procedure,
his freedom and civil rights are not to be deprived. We believe that
you share this common view with us, and with all those who respect the
constitution and laws of China.'
On January 8, 2005, the media
reported from Hong Kong that Zhao had died. This was denied by Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan as totally untrue: 'Zhao Ziyang is
an old man who is over 80. He fell ill, but after attentive treatment,
his condition is currently stable,' he told reporters. However, one can
doubt the veracity of this declaration (Zhao's daughter admitted he was
in a coma).
Probably, like Yasser Arafat, the announcement of his
death will be stage managed to ensure that all arrangements for his
'non-official' funeral are complete.
Already news from the BBC says,
'A thousand policemen are to be deployed every morning on Beijing's
Tiananmen Square to escort visitors to the flag-raising ceremony. The
new rules may be designed to prevent any dawn protests on the square,
scene of a bloody pro-democracy crackdown in 1989.'
coincides with the publication of a Gallup report which concluded: 'The
people of China may be far wealthier than they were a decade ago, but
they are not very satisfied with their quality of life, a survey
In the meantime, the European Union prepares to lift the arms embargo imposed after the Tiananmen events.
will be the third time Zhao died. Politically, he died at Tiananmen
Square in May 1989; he probably died in a Beijing hospital earlier this
month; and the principles he fought for will be buried for the sake of
selling a few weapons more.