Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
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Prisoner of the State is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to China and who was dethroned at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 for trying to stop the massacre. Zhao spent the last years of his life under house arrest. An occasional detail about his life would slip out, but scholars and citizens lamented that Zhao never had his final say.
But Zhao did produce a memoir, secretly recording on audio tapes the real story of what happened during modern China’s most critical moments. He provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown, describes the ploys and double crosses used by China’s leaders, and exhorts China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long-term stability. His riveting, behind-the-scenes recollections form the basis of Prisoner of the State.
The China that Zhao portrays is not some long-lost dynasty. It is today’s China, where its leaders accept economic freedom but resist political change. Zhao might have steered China’s political system toward openness and tolerance had he survived. Although Zhao now speaks from the grave, his voice still has the moral power to make China sit up and listen.
Movement,* [Deng’s daughter] Maomao called [Zhao adviser] Bao Tong, who was drafting the text, to suggest that the speech include remarks about how much Deng loved and protected young people. Later, on May 17, at the meeting at Deng’s home in which the decision was made to impose martial law, Deng demanded of Li Peng, “Don’t repeat what you did before; don’t reveal that it was I who made the decision to impose martial law!” Li Peng said repeatedly, “I won’t! I won’t!” It was obvious that
presentation of Zhao’s recorded journal. The book does not follow Zhao’s precise sequence. Some chunks were rearranged and others trimmed to eliminate repetition and for greater readability. For instance, we open with sections that deal with the Tiananmen protests and crackdown of 1989 and with Zhao’s many years under house arrest. We also begin each chapter with brief editors’ notes, in italics, to help set the stage for readers who aren’t familiar with what was happening in China at the
its habits have not evolved. At the end of 2008, more than three hundred Chinese activists, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, jointly signed Charter 08, a document that called on the Party to reform its political system and allow freedom of expression and an independent judiciary. Beijing responded as it always has: by interrogating many of the signatories and arresting some, including prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo. China is still a nation where the
could have assisted a criminal inquiry. The document is never made public. T he Fourth Plenum of the 13th Central Committee stripped me of all my positions and resolved to continue the investigation. This was, in itself, historically unprecedented. Since harsh administrative punishment had already been imposed, there should have been no need to continue 53 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 53 3/9/09 2:16:18 PM 54 Prisoner of the State the investigation. If the matter had not been clarified
allow the world to get to know Hu Yaobang better. Lu said that the nation’s image was closely related to that of Yaobang. He praised Yaobang as an enlightened, honest, and straightforward political leader; one who never plotted conspiracies, was generous, open- minded, understanding, full of vigor. Besides praising Yaobang, Lu Keng also asked him, “Why don’t you take over the Central Military Commission while the old man Deng is still alive? If you do not, how will you handle the situation if,