Former Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong, who was in office during the 1989 protests and was later jailed for corruption, has called the June 4 military crackdown on the Beijing protests a “tragedy,” according to a new book of interviews with him. The book is reportedly a response to diaries of former premier Li Peng which called Chen “‘the chief commander’ of the Beijing Martial Law Command Center.” In the same series of interviews, Chen denied the charges against him. From the Guardian:
According to the scholar Yao Jianfu, who says he interviewed the 81-year-old repeatedly for the new book Conversations with Chen Xitong, the former mayor said that while he wanted a swift end to the instability, “nobody should have died if it was handled properly. Several hundred people died on that day. As the mayor, I felt sorry. I hoped we could have solved the case peacefully.”
Chen later became party secretary of the capital, but was ousted and then jailed in a major corruption scandal in the 1990s. He was released on medical parole in 2004.
“He was a hardliner … but he is the first one to come out saying he regretted that people died and that it should have been peaceful. That’s significant,” said Bao Pu, the book’s publisher.
Bao’s father was the most senior official jailed for his sympathy for the students. “Even Chen Xitong has a sense that people in general don’t accept the government’s conclusion.”