Zhao Ziyang Remembered; Tiananmen General Dies

Zhao Ziyang, former Party general secretary and national premier who opposed the use of force against Tiananmen protesters in 1989, was honored by visitors to his former home in Beijing on Thursday, the 8th anniversary of his death. From the South China Morning Post:

Zhao pressed forward with bold political reforms while in office, but he was never seen in public after May 19, 1989, when he made a tearful appeal in Tiananmen Square for pro-democracy demonstrators to leave. He has since become a symbol of thwarted political reform.

Du Guang , a veteran Central Party School scholar, wept and said Zhao had died while still smeared by false charges and he could never forget him. “Zhao initiated political reform but regrettably everything was terminated after June 4, 1989,” said Du, who helped found a semi-official think tank that analysed reform issues in 1988 but was forced to close after the Tiananmen crackdown.

People who visited Zhao’s home yesterday bowed in the mourning room, where a large picture of a smiling Zhao was surrounded by dozens of flowers, including ones from his former aide Bao Tong , who is under house arrest in Beijing.

Some netizens also commemorated Zhao online, though searches for his name remained blocked on Sina Weibo, and posts which mentioned him directly were reportedly removed. Many, though, had no idea who he was:

“If I may ask, who is he?”

At The New York Times, meanwhile, Andrew Jacobs reported the death of another “largely forgotten” figure of the era: General Yang Baibing, who led the suppression of the protests in 1989 but was later sidelined for conspiring to usurp Jiang Zemin’s succession.

Among democracy advocates, General Yang is best remembered for carrying out Deng’s order to clear unarmed demonstrators occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the spring of 1989. In May, his older brother appeared on television with Li Peng, the prime minister at the time, to justify the imposition of martial law to quell demonstrations that had paralyzed the heart of the capital. As general secretary of the Central Military Commission and the army’s political commissar, General Yang mobilized troops whose gunfire would claim hundreds if not thousands of lives.

[…] In recent years General Yang was said to have sought a publisher for his memoirs, which included a justification for the use of force against the Tiananmen Square demonstrators. Bao Pu, a publisher in Hong Kong, said party leaders had rejected the manuscript, presumably because it broached a subject that remains taboo here.

Mr. Bao, whose father was purged as Communist Party secretary general for opposing the use of force in Tiananmen Square, said many historians were eager to know whether in his memoirs General Yang had expressed regret for the killings.

“Thanks to the Yang brothers, China’s only military victory of the last 30 years involved cracking down on its own people,” Mr. Bao said. “You can’t help but wonder if he had any reflection on that.”

January 18, 2013 5:45 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society