Former Chinese Party Chief Zhao Ziyang Dies
Purged Chinese Party Chief Zhao Ziyang Dies (ABC-Reuters)
Zhao Ziyang, a Chinese reformist toppled as Communist Party chief in 1989 for opposing an army crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, died in hospital Monday, his family said. He was 85.
The one-time heir-apparent to Deng Xiaoping, his long party career defined by his tearful pleading with student protesters in the square, spent his last 15 years confined to house arrest by successors fearing his residual influence as an icon of reform. “He is free at last,” Zhao’s daughter, Wang Yannan, said in a statement obtained by Reuters. Her father died in a coma at a Beijing hospital early on Monday after a series of strokes.
He spent the final years of his life sequestered behind the red doors of a courtyard home in central Beijing, emerging only for brief visits to the provinces or to the golf course. Unmarked cars and police were ever-present on the street outside. The long years of house arrest were “a showcase of shame for Chinese justice and for the Chinese Communist Party itself,” Zhao’s former aide, Bao Tong, wrote. Bao himself was jailed for seven years in 1989 and remains under close surveillance. Zhao was accused of splitting the party after opposing the decision of Deng, then China’s paramount leader, to crush the Tiananmen protests. He remained a politically sensitive figure amid government fears that his death could spark protests.
Truly bizarre. It’s difficult to imagine the government of any other major power getting away with this kind of conduct.