China's Prisoner of Conscience

The secret journals of Zhao Ziyang, once China's best hope for political reform, surface in a new book.

Zhao with students in Tiananmen Square, 1989.

Excerpt 1: Tragedy

Page 33-34 (from Part 1: The Tiananmen Massacre, Chapter 4: The Crackdown)

Former Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang's secret journals were smuggled out of China and are to be published May 19th, for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

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English Transcript

On the night of June 3rd, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all.

I prepared the above written material three years after the June Fourth tragedy. Many years have now passed since this tragedy. Of the activists involved in this incident, except for the few who escaped abroad, most were arrested, sentenced, and repeatedly interrogated. The truth must have been determined by now. Certainly the following three questions should have been answered by now.

First, it was determined then that the student movement was “a planned conspiracy” of anti-Party, anti-socialist elements with leadership. So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this? It was also said that there were “black hands” within the Party. Then who were they?

Second, it was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the Communist Party. Where is the evidence? I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system. After so many years, what evidence has been obtained through the interrogations? Have I been proven right, or have they? Many of the democracy activists in exile say that before June Fourth, they had still believed that the Party could improve itself. After June Fourth, however, they saw the Party as hopeless and only then did they take a stand to oppose the Party. During the demonstrations, students raised many slogans and demands, but the problem of inflation was conspicuously missing, though inflation was a hot topic that could easily have resonated with and ignited all of society. If the students had intended on opposing the Communist Party back then, why hadn’t they utilized this sensitive topic? If intent on mobilizing the masses, wouldn’t it have been easier to raise questions like this one? In hindsight, it’s obvious that the reason the students did not raise the issue of inflation was that they knew that this issue was related to the reform program, and if pointedly raised to mobilize the masses, it could have turned out to obstruct the reform process.

Third, can it be proven that the June Fourth movement was “counterrevolutionary turmoil,” as it was designated? The students were orderly. Many reports indicate that on the occasions when the People’s Liberation Army came under attack, in many incidents it was the students who had come to its defense. Large numbers of city residents blocked the PLA from entering the city. Why? Were they intent on overthrowing the republic?

Of course, whenever there are large numbers of people involved, there will always be some tiny minority within the crowd who might want to attack the PLA. It was a chaotic situation. It is perfectly possible that some hooligans took advantage of the situation to make trouble, but how can these actions be attributed to the majority of the citizens and students? By now, the answer to this question should be clear.

Related

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Secret Memoir Reveals Dissent
Zhao Ziyang violated one of the central tenets of Communist Party doctrine: He spoke out.

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