'A Crucial Stage That Cannot Be Avoided'

A commentary by Bao Tong
2013-06-03
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Students gather at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.
AFP

Something must be done about the issue of June 4, 1989. I am not going to predict how this will happen in the future. All I can say in advance is that whether the issue is resolved or eliminated will depend on two things: firstly, free access by our citizens to the truth about this incident; and secondly, the freedom of citizens to express their own evaluation of this incident.

In today's world, it is difficult to solve any major problem in the absence of freely available information and the freedom to express an opinion about it.

June 4, 1989 wasn't an isolated incident. As such, any efforts that go towards freedom of expression and opinion will play their part in resolving the issue of June 4. Similarly, a complete resolution of the June 4 issue is a crucial step that cannot be avoided, on China's road to becoming a civilized society.

Our new leaders don't bear the responsibility for June 4. But they are not entitled to block the free flow of information into China, or the free expression of opinion. If they continue to blockade the facts, ban publications and suppress freedom of speech about the June 4 incident, all it will prove is that they themselves are identified with past events.

As citizens under their oppression, who can see where our leadership is going wrong, we have a duty to help them and to force them to return to the right path.

As Chinese people, we all have responsibility to put this pressure, which isn't without a certain amount of danger, on our leaders, so that the weighty historical matter of the June 4 crackdown can be cleared up for good.

This is merely my humble opinion, and is certainly not comprehensive. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, former political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.