Hundreds Honor Ousted Party Chief

Former colleagues and ordinary Chinese remember a man who 'spoke the truth.'
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Students gather at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.
Students gather at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.

Around two hundred people gathered this week at the former Beijing home of late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang to mark the seventh anniversary of his death, participants said.

According to Beijing-based legal scholar Yu Meisun, among those who visited the late former leader's home in Fuqiang alley were petitionersordinary Chinese, many of whom have spent years pursuing complaints against official wrongdoing through legal channels, most with scant reward.

"There were quite a few petitioners there this year," said Yu, who attended the simple reception held by Zhao's son Zhao Wujun and daughter Wang Yannan. "

Zhao's former secretary was there too, and some old colleagues who used to work in Zhongnanhai [Party headquarters]."

He said many at the meeting were still talking of their hopes for political reforms, which Zhao had initiated but never brought to fruition.

Zhao, a former general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, fell from power at the height of the student-led pro-democracy movement in the early summer of 1989.

His name has been edited out of official records and history books, along with those people who died during the military crackdown on the protests which centered on Tiananmen Square, after he favored taking a conciliatory approach.

Yu said Zhao was known as a champion of ordinary people's needs and concerns.

Problems 'more serious'

"[He wanted to] return power to the people, but now, times have changed and our social problems are getting more serious," he said, in a reference to growing unrest sparked by official corruption and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor.

"People are increasingly looking back to the time that Zhao Ziyang was in power, because of the clarity of his vision and the reforms which he implemented to the economic and political systems," Yu said.

Shanghai-based petitioner Zhang Xiongming said he had gone to Zhao's house to mark his anniversary because "he knew how to speak the truth."

"He was able to let ordinary people get on with their lives in peace," said Zhang, adding that he had spent the last seven years since Zhao's death petitioning in vain over the loss of his family home to developers.

"Now we have no home to go to, and life is impossible for us because of land grabs and evictions," he said. "Things were more democratic when Zhao Ziyang was in power."


As Zhang attended the ceremony in Beijing, his fellow petitioners in Shanghai unfurled a banner in front of the municipal government building on Tuesday which read: "Shanghai's petitioners remember the seventh anniversary of Zhao Ziyang's passing."

Veteran petitioner and evictee Tan Lanying said they marked Zhao's death because he too had been persecuted by the Communist Party.

"He was very supportive of the [1989] student [movement]," she said. "We believe that the entire nation will stand up and overthrow the Communist Party system and the dictatorship of the Party."

Fellow activist Zheng Peipei said many people in today's China feel wronged at the hands of the government. "I think [Zhao] was able to think about the people ... so we remember him ... the people all remember him," she said.

"My home was snatched away by the local government, and I hope that the government will give us back the things it took from us," she said. "They should implement their own laws."

Reported by An Pei for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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