Twenty Years On – Legacy of a Massacre

Two lengthy articles look at the legacy of June 4th by profiling the key players. A report in the Age gets the perspectives of several of the student leaders and Du Daozheng, a former official who recently played a major role in the publication of Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs:

“People don’t really talk about June 4 any more,” a confident public security official told The Age. “We’re far more worried about September, when this year’s university students graduate and find there aren’t any jobs.”

The party’s obsession with controlling its past makes the achievements of a few contrarian cadres all the more unlikely.

[…] In the 1980s, when China was being liberalised, Du edited the People’s Daily and then headed the General Administration of Press and Publications. But on May 31, 1989, as the tanks rumbled towards Beijing, Du decided he would not be meekly swept along in yet another episode of tragic Communist Party history. He says he agonised and shed “many tears” before phoning a senior leader and vowing to tear up the party membership card he had carried for 54 years if the soldiers opened fire.

The soldiers sprayed their bullets, the party arrested Zhao, but Du did not hand in his membership card. Instead he has spent 20 years chipping away at the party’s collective guilt from the inside, trying to clear the names of the reform-minded cadres it had destroyed.

And the Financial Times interviews Bao Tong, a senior aide to Zhao Ziyang who was the highest official to be jailed in connection to the 1989 protests:

He greets me at the door with a wry smile, jet-black hair and a lithe frame wrapped in a Princeton University sweatshirt. It is hard to believe that he spent six years of his life doing hard labour during the Cultural Revolution and then, from 1989, another seven years in solitary confinement in the notorious Qincheng political prison. When I mention the sinister-looking men at the entrance to his apartment block who asked me to explain why I’ve come to see him, his face cracks into a sly grin.

“I’m contributing to the country by stimulating domestic demand, increasing employment and helping solve the financial crisis,” he says. He speaks Mandarin with the soft consonants of a southerner and the confidence characteristic of a senior party cadre. “You only saw three people down there but if I want to go out I’m followed by three groups – one on foot, one in cars and one on motorbikes. Just think – it takes more than 30 people to keep an eye on me so if the government decided to monitor all 1.3bn people in China we could solve the unemployment problem for the whole world!”

While this kind of gallows humour and the satirical use of communist propaganda slogans is common on the anonymous internet, I have never heard a senior Chinese official, even a retired one, talk like this in public.

May 29, 2009 9:30 PM
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Categories: Human Rights, Politics