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.
stand taken in the April 26 editorial, to make matters more manageable, but my proposal was turned down. The Standing Committee criticized me, saying that my May Fourth speech had aggravated the situation. I voiced my reservations over the issue.” He also told Bao Tong that Li Peng had accused Bao Tong of revealing secrets. After Bao Tong returned to [his job at] the Research Office of Political Reform, he immediately called together some of his staff for a meeting. He said that somebody had
play golf. With this in mind, I replied to him, “You should not get involved in this. Anyway, I have no interest in playing golf these days.” I gave him the cold shoulder. Why would a doctor intervene in such matters? Only by orders of the General Office. Then the Party branch of the General Office called my secretary to say that playing golf was now allowed. Though I had previously been denied the right to attend the fu- 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 85 3/9/09 2:16:26 PM 86 Pri soner of
Congress in the fall of 1987. When we come to the events of April–June 1989, when the students began their marches to Tiananmen Square to show their respect for Hu Yaobang, who died on April 15, it is possible that Western readers have access to more knowledge than Zhao Ziyang had at the time. This is as a result of the publication abroad of secret Communist documents on the crisis,* some of which Zhao probably never saw, particularly the minutes of the meetings of the elders who decided on
standards were high, and the scale of public property was big or collective enterprises had been developed; second, the middle group; and third, the areas where productive forces were seriously damaged and people were on the verge of starvation. I believed that people in the third category most urgently needed the household land contract scheme, which was the fastest and most effective way to change things. In 1980, after I started working in the central government, I suggested in a meeting that
competitive conditions. Part of the huge profits obtained in this way can then be used for bribes. The only solution for resolving this issue is continued deepening of reform to separate government enterprises, to hand down powers currently held by the government to administrators of the industries, and to resolve the issue of monopolies or the overconcentration of power. Doing this limits the environment for power-money exchanges. Such problems can only be solved through further reforms.