Aide to Late Chinese Party Boss Lashes Out at Regime


2005.01.17
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A sparsely populated Tiananmen Square on Jan. 17, the day that Zhao Ziyang died. Photo: AFP/Frederic J. Brown

HONG KONG--A former aide to the ousted Chinese Communist Party boss Zhao Ziyang is mourning Zhao as a Party loyalist who fought corruption and sacrificed his career to the pursuit of greater democracy.

Bao Tong also took angry aim at Chinese authorities who held Zhao under house arrest from 1989 until his death on Monday at age 85.

He still lives as part of a heroic and mighty task, that of pioneering the protection of human rights and democracy for the Chinese people.

"Zhao Ziyang is with us!" Beijing-based Bao wrote in a eulogy to which Radio Free Asia (RFA) obtained exclusive broadcast rights. "He still lives as part of a heroic and mighty task, that of pioneering the protection of human rights and democracy for the Chinese people."

Bao's phone service was suspended soon after he released the statement, leaving him unable to broadcast it himself.

Air-brushed from history

"Zhao Ziyang was ousted and put under house arrest for advocating democracy and the rule of law. What crime did Zhao Ziyang commit? Is democracy guilty of something? Is the rule of law guilty of something?"

"They have air-brushed Zhao's name from history and from real life. These illegitimate tactics have exposed the illegitimate nature of those who perpetrated them," Bao wrote.

Zhao's life has taught us something: under the current system, a party member with a conscience will end his life in tragedy.

"Zhao Ziyang died under illegal house arrest. To mourn Zhao is to indict the acts of trampling the Constitution. To mourn Zhao is to defend human rights. To mourn Zhao is to pursue democracy and the rule of law."

Meanwhile, former 1989 student activists also spoke with feeling on hearing about Zhao's death. "The Communist Party is bad. But that doesn't mean every Communist Party member is bad," former Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan told RFA's Mandarin service.

Tragic end to a valued career

"Zhao Ziyang was a communist party member with a conscience. I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing. There will not be another Zhao Ziyang," said Wang, who is now a U.S.-based scholar.

"Zhao's life has taught us something: under the current system, a party member with a conscience will end his life in tragedy."

Zhao Ziyang suggested that the Chinese government hold a dialogue with the demonstrating students...That changed how the students viewed him.

Meanwhile, Taiwan-based former student leader Wu'er Kaixi said Zhao would always be most vividly remembered for visiting the students during their protests on the Square, and for advocating dialogue with them, not the use of force.

"On May 4, 1989, Zhao Ziyang suggested that the Chinese government hold a dialogue with the demonstrating students," Wu'er said. "That changed how the students viewed him--from a target of criticism to a leader of reform."

"When he visited the students at Tiananmen Square, he said poignantly: 'I've come too late.' That statement had several layers of meaning. On the surface, it meant that the Party Secretary didn't pay the students a visit until days after they started their hunger strike."

Zhao came 'too late'

"But I think there was another layer of meaning to that statement. By 'late' Zhao Ziyang meant it was over, and that there was nothing he could do. I wonder if Zhao himself had dwelled on that statement while he was under house arrest during the past 15 years," Wu'er told RFA.

Bao said his former boss had tried to reform the Party, realizing that the disasters of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) all stemmed from a lack of rule of law and democracy.

"The single-party system ensures that every mistake made by the Communist Party has translated into a nationwide and long-term disaster. It is at the roots of the Cultural Revolution," he wrote.

"Zhao Ziyang put forward a political reform plan to the [1987] 13th Party Congress which aimed, in the long term, to systematize the rule of law and democracy," Bao said. "It was a democratic politics that would have mutually supported the market-oriented economic reform program."

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