June 4, 1989. China. TIANANMEN SQUARE: Democracy’s Doomsday – Part 3
June 4, 1989. The two men in the foreground flee as the tanks trundle into the square. Notice one man calmly standing in the way of the tanks.
He stood firmly as everyone else had fled, fearing for their lives.
His name was Wang Dan. And incredible but true; he is still alive today. And he still wants to bring democracy to China.
People run helter-skelter as the troops start firing
This is how the tanks crushed the protests
Zhao Ziyang. The only moderate in the Chinese Communist party then was in favour of talks with the students. He was over-ruled and disgraced. And Deng sent in the tanks.
In 1989, Zhao, then the Communist Party’s general secretary and the major architect of China’s economic reforms, was such a victim. Zhao had argued for “dialogue” over martial law as a way to handle the pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing. On May 17, 1989, he was overruled, and on May 19 stripped of power. On June 4, soldiers fired on demonstrators in the streets of Beijing, killing hundreds. Zhao was charged with “splitting the party” and “supporting turmoil,” and was confined to house arrest until his death in 2005.
(Source: Washington Post)
When Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese premier who in 1989 had opposed using military force against student protesters, died four years ago, China’s top leaders formed an “Emergency Response Leadership Small Group,” declared “a period of extreme sensitivity,” put the People’s Armed Police on special alert and ordered the Ministry of Railways to screen travelers heading for Beijing. If this is how the men who rule China reacted to Zhao’s death at home, how then will they respond to the posthumously published “Prisoner of the State,” a book in which Zhao repeatedly attacks the stonewalling and subterfuge (and sycophancy, mendacity, buck-passing and back-stabbing) of people whose allies and heirs remain in power today?
Now, in “Prisoner of the State,” a book timed to appear precisely 20 years since his purge, Zhao speaks from beyond the grave. He flouts the unspoken rule against public blame of others of the group. He skewers Li Peng, Li Xiannian, Yao Yilin, Deng Liqun, Hu Qiaomu and Wang Zhen repeatedly and by name. He complains that the meeting at which martial law was decided was in violation of the Party Charter because he, the general secretary, should have chaired any such meeting but was not even notified of it.
It is clearer here than elsewhere that Zhao was already in serious political trouble in 1988, before the democracy movement began; and that Zhao had bickered with Hu Yaobang over economic policy as early as 1982, even though the two reformist leaders needed each other. Deng Xiaoping appears more strikingly than elsewhere as a Godfather figure: Other leaders jockey for access to him, dare not contradict him and use his words to attack one another. Yet even Deng seeks to avoid responsibility for difficult decisions. The group has dictatorial power, yet is rife with insecurity.
In 1989, Zhao urged his fellow leaders to enter into reasoned dialogue with the student protesters, who, he insisted, were “absolutely not against the basic foundations of our system” but were “merely asking us to correct some of our flaws.” Could it be that Zhao really believed this? Or was he using it, as the students themselves were, as protective cover? Of course the students knew that it would be dangerous — indeed foolhardy — to declare open opposition to the ruling system. But to conclude that they were interested only in flaws is a bit silly. When certain things could not be stated plainly in public, the students sometimes resorted to double entendre — singing, for example, lines from the Chinese national anthem: “Rise up, oh people who would not be slaves. . . . China’s most perilous hour is nigh.” Even more mischievous was the singing of selected lines from the 1950s song “Without the Communist Party there would be no New China” — where the singers intentionally left the meaning of “New China” ambiguous.
What it actually has, he observed near the end of his life, is continuing rule by “a tightly-knit interest group . . . in which the political elite, the economic elite, and the intellectual elite are fused. This power elite blocks China’s further reform and steers the nation’s policies toward service of itself.” He saw that China’s “abundant and cheap” labor had produced an economic boom. The society’s rulers claim they have lifted millions from poverty, but in truth the millions have lifted themselves, through hard work and long hours, and in the process they have catapulted the elite to unprecedented levels of opulence and economic power.