Monday, January 17, 2005

Zhao Ziyang Dies

There was plenty of other news this weekend: a Communist bank executive was indicted for embezzling $85 million (Epoch Times); two Canadian reporters were barred from following Prime Minister Martin on his trip to Communist China (Epoch Times); the mainland and Taiwan agreed to Lunar Year direct flights (Time Asia); and anti-Communist rally was held in Washington (Epoch Times); and the U.S. reacted to Stalinist North Korea’s apparent willingness to return to talks on its nuclear ambitions (BBC). Several issues were analyzed as well: the aforementioned nuclear talks (Time Asia); the fate of Falun Gong practitioner and Communist prisoner Charles Li (Epoch Times); the recent Taiwanese legislative elections (Jamestown Foundation via Epoch Times) and the prospect of a cross-strait war (World Net Daily); the fate of prisoner Dilkex Tilivaldi (third item) and his fellow Uighurs (Washington Post); Japan’s growing concern about Communist China and SNK (Washington Times); and how Communist China’s incompetence has led to a crippling power shortage (Epoch Times). None of it, however, compares with the biggest, and saddest, story of the week: the death of Zhao Ziyang (CNN, Time Asia, Epoch Times).

In the spring of 1989, as the students, workers, and others reached one million strong in Tiananmen Square demanding change in China, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party decided to answer with hot lead. Spearheaded by Central Military Commission Chair Deng Xiaoping and Premier Li Peng, the Communist leadership brought the protests to their infamous and bloody end. However, the decision was not unanimous. Zhao Ziyang, the General Secretary of the CCP, had other ideas. He refused to go along with the crackdown – for which he lost his post and his freedom. The last anyone saw him in public, he addressed the million in Tiananmen to warn them of the upcoming slaughter, and to tearfully apologize for failing to dissuade Deng to stay the military’s hand: “I have come to late.”

Zhao never rescinded his opposition to the crackdown, and for that he was under house arrest for the rest of his life. The Deng-Li clique replaced him with Jiang Zemin, who has since secured his place in the Communist Hall of Shame with, among many other things, a major Communist military buildup and a brutal crackdown against non-Communist Christians and Falun Gong.

As one would expect, many dissidents were saddened at Zhao’s death, and took the opportunity to praise him posthumously (BBC, Free China Movement via China Support Network). Several groups have also requested “a nationwide week of mourning for Mr. Zhao, from January 17 until January 24” (Epoch Times). Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi noted Zhao’s passing with a call to Communist China to make “efforts at democratisation (UK sp)” (BBC). One can only imagine the vituperations headed Koizumi’s way from Zhongnanhai.

On a personal note, as a co-founder of the China e-Lobby, I consider June 4, 1989 (Flashback reports: Time Asia, BBC 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) to be one of the most important and tragic dates in the history of the world. It was in the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre that the Communists resorted to radical, anti-American nationalism to justify their rule. It didn’t have to be that way. Zhao Ziyang and his top aid Bao Tong, who was sent to prison, were the last true reformers within the CCP. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, Zhao was comfortable with the CCP ceding control of the government, at least in part. Had he the chance, Zhao could have steered China in an entirely new direction. Instead, his fall made clear once again the most important rule of Communist dictatorships: you can be an honest man, or you can be a Communist, but you can never be both.

Now, as the Chinese and American peoples are locked in a life and death struggle against their common enemy – the irredentist, tyrannical, and brutal Chinese Communist Party – the China e-Lobby joins those who mourn the passing of the man who could have prevented this: Zhao Ziyang.

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