From New York Times:
He was the reformist party leader whose death 21 years ago helped inspire the bloody pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. To a large extent, both the protests and the leader — the former Communist Party general secretary Hu Yaobang — have been missing from China’s official political lexicon ever since.
So tens of thousands of Chinese took note on Thursday when a long and emotional tribute to Mr. Hu — written by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao — was published Thursday in Renmin Ribao, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, otherwise known as People’s Daily.
“After all these years, finally someone is willing to say the right thing,” wrote a reader, one of more than 20,000 who posted comments on the article on the Chinese news portal Sina.com.
What are we to make of this essay, as well as of increased media coverage of Hu’s legacy? A Web site dedicated to remembering Hu’s work singles out his commitment to democracy, to dialogue and to government by law and popular oversight. What is the significance of a leading magazine on Chinese political history, History Reference, featuring Hu on its cover, and highlighting the story of his intervention in Sichuan in 1952 to prevent the wanton dislocation of residents from land seized by the government for construction?
Handling the legacy of Hu has been anything but easy for the current leadership. For example, shortly after Hu Jintao was elevated to Party Secretary in 2002, there were reports that he visited Hu Yaobang’s widow to pay his respects — an important statement of political fidelity, for it was her late husband who sponsored a good portion of Hu Jintao’s rise. But two years later, on what would have been Hu Yaobang’s 90th birthday, an attempt by the reformist magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu to commemorate that anniversary resulted in severe reprimands for the editors and the pulping of thousands of copies destined for sale at local newsstands. This was despite the fact that the anniversary brought a measure of recognition from some high-ranking officials at the Great Hall of the People, a gathering that was covered by state media.