Student leaders in Tiananmen incident express regret at Zhao’s death

Student leaders in Tiananmen incident express regret at Zhao’s death

TAIPEI, Jan. 17 Kyodo

Former students who spearheaded the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 expressed regret Monday at the death of former Chinese Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang.

”We feel sorrow and pain at Zhao’s passing away,” said Wang Dan, who was a leading figure in the mass protest and was exiled as a dissident to the United States in 1993.

Zhao, purged in 1989 for breaking ranks in his response to the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square, died of an illness Monday morning at the age of 85, official Chinese media reported.

Zhao, who pushed for both political and economic reforms as Communist Party general secretary from 1987 to 1989 after seven years as State Council premier, had been under house arrest since breaking ranks with party comrades and showing sympathy for students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square for more democracy and against official corruption.

Wang, 36, now a Harvard University student and also a visiting scholar at the Institute of Modern History of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, lamented the unfavorable turns in Zhao’s life.

He said Zhao’s lifelong devotion to the Communist party and great contributions to China’s economic reforms should not be easily written off simply because of political discord triggered by the handling of the monthlong demonstrations between Zhao and other hawkish party members.

”It’s not only Zhao’s personal misfortune, but all China’s misfortune as well,” he told Kyodo News.

Wuerkaixi (Uerkesh in Uighur), 37, another prominent figure in the movement, also paid tribute to Zhao, who visited movement participants in the square and made an emotional plea to agitated students a few days before the bloodshed occurred.

Now a Taipei-based political commentator, Wuerkaixi recalled that many young people taking part in the event appreciated Zhao’s attitude, but also regretted his late appearance at that time.

”It is regrettable that Zhao failed to seize that historic opportunity,” Wuerkaixi said. ”I think it could largely be attributed to his mild character and the Communist party’s mentality.”

Considering Zhao a ”tragic hero,” Wuerkaixi said that 15 years’ house confinement is evidence of Zhao’s integrity and the role he played in the bloody event.

”Zhao’s death reminds us that his personal grievance has not been solved, and numerous students’ grievances have not been solved either,” he said.

With Zhao having been excluded from political circles for more than a decade, Wang sees little possibility that his death will cause any political and social turmoil on the mainland.

But he said a new wave of calls to redress the miscarriage of justice in 1989 can be expected.

”There will be a surge in discussions about political reform within China,” Wang said. ”But the scale of the movement will still hinge on the Chinese government’s repressive measures.”

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