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 2: Punishment

Pages 189-190 (from Part 4: War in the Politburo, Chapter 2: Zhao Walks the Line)

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

Another issue was how to deal with people implicated in all of this. The Anti-Liberalization Campaign was not just a theoretical issue. My biggest headaches came from the issues of whether to punish people, how to reduce the harm done to people, and how to contain the circle of people being harmed. From the beginning of the campaign, some Party elders were also very enthusiastic and wanted to punish a lot of people. Deng Xiaoping had always believed that those who proceeded with liberalization within the Party should be severely punished. Wang Zhen and other elders believed this as well. People like Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu were even more eager to take the opportunity to destroy certain people and take pleasure in the aftermath.

Under these circumstances, it was difficult to protect certain people, or limit the number being hurt or even to reduce the degree of harm that was done. Hence when it was drafted, the Number Four Document set strict limits on the punishment of those designated by the campaign as having made mistakes. The document defined this as: “Punishments that will be publicized and administrative punishments must first be approved by the Central Committee, and are to be meted out to those few Party members who openly promote bourgeois liberalism, refuse to mend their ways despite repeated admonitions, and have extensive influence.” The document also stated, “For those who hold some mistaken views, criticisms by fellow Party members may be carried out in Party group administrative meetings. They should be allowed to hold to their own views and the method of carrying out the criticism must be calm.”

At the meeting of national Propaganda Department leaders and on other occasions, I also spoke on how to win over the vast majority of people in the theoretical and cultural domains. I suggested we cooperate even with people with biased or false ideas. I pointed out, “Among Party members working in the theoretical and cultural fields, there are those who clearly uphold the Four Cardinal Principles but are a bit conservative and rigid; some are enthusiastic about reform yet have made statements that are inappropriate. We cannot just label the former as dogmatic or the latter as pursuers of liberalization. We should educate and cooperate with them all.”

When proceeding with the Anti-Liberalization Campaign, I had intentionally emphasized that we should classify those who had taken faulty liberal actions as well as those who were too conservative and rigid into the same group of people who were too biased. The purpose was to avoid or reduce the harm being done to people.

Related

From the Inside, Out
Book Review: Zhao Ziyang Continues His Fight Postmortem

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

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