The report says that two worries dominated the secret meeting: one was the matter of how archives can be kept secure. What would happen, the officials wondered, if they were raided during “social disturbances” such as the recent riots in Guangzhou protesting the central government’s effort to end Cantonese-language broadcasts in Cantonese-speaking areas. (The number of such “disturbances” has grown steadily in recent years, to more than 230,000 in 2009.) Should emergency incineration equipment be supplied at all archive sites, just in case? What if archive staff realize that they can sell things for profit? Should the staff be paid more, to buy their loyalty?
The second major worry was the growing problem of retired party officials writing unauthorized memoirs. Recent examples of this genre include Zhao Ziyang’s 2009 memoir and the “June Fourth Diary” of Li Peng, the Chinese premier at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests. (Li’s diary was refused publication in China, leaked to Hong Kong, published there, and then leaked back to the mainland on the Web. Bloggers on the whole have excoriated Li, who doesn’t appear to have been involved in the Web publication, because his motive from the beginning was probably not to try to win public opinion but to show for history that Deng, not he, ordered the Tiananmen Square killings.) General Yang Baibing, perhaps still smarting from his purge in 1992, reportedly has penned memoirs as well, as has Tian Jiyun, a former politburo member and long-time critic of his hard-liner colleagues. Altogether, an unnamed “54 high-level officials” have requested to see archives for the purpose of writing memoirs, and many of these people are believed to be preparing two versions—one to submit for official approval and the other to keep separately.
Against this background, the Wikileaks story, which broke the day after the boxun leak, took on a special significance. In emails, tweets, and web postings, Chinese bloggers, both inside China and overseas, began listing key episodes in recent Chinese history that have remained shrouded in mystery and for which they would love to see archives opened.