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.
resignation for me to send to the Standing Committee. At that evening’s meeting to brief the Standing Committee, I refused to accept the assignment to chair the meeting of cadres to announce martial law. I said, “It seems my mission in history has already ended.” Yang Shangkun replied to me, “This kind of issue cannot be raised now. No changes in leadership should be made.” He meant that my position as General Secretary should not be changed. As soon as my letter of resignation reached the
with Zhao’s long and productive career, only the tumultuous three years before he fell from power. Yet his remarkable achievements and the reputation he developed are worth remembering. Zhao’s rise to power traces to his success running economic policy in the provinces. Though born in Henan Province, he built his career in Guangdong, where he became Party chief in 1965 at the remarkably tender age of forty-six. Like countless other officials, he was purged during the Cultural Revolution; he was
Yet a majority disagreed with the original draft and it failed to pass. 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 169 3/9/09 2:16:45 PM 170 Prisoner of the State After returning from Beidaihe, Yaobang told me through his secretary Zheng Bijian that he believed it was still necessary to have such a document, but the fact that there were so many disagreements put him in a difficult position. He wished to hear my opinion. I said that I had always wondered whether we even needed the resolution, but if
plenum. At the time, I thought that the reason for not holding a plenum was to reduce the shock and allow for softer measures, rather than out of concern that it might not pass. Of course, the measure was not in line with proper Party rules, but his intention was to resolve the matter while reducing the impact. After Deng spoke, no comrades voiced any differing opinion. Chen Yun was more active than the others at this meeting. He seemed very attentive to organizational principles and proper
of the General Political Department, they also visited factories and oil fields together. During Secretariat meetings, Yaobang often asked for Yu Qiuli’s opinion on economic issues, then praised his views. Perhaps Hu had trouble getting support on economic issues; Yu’s views were in line with his, so he was using Yu Qiuli’s remarks as a way to express his own opinion, or to gain consensus. Their relationship had been quite intimate. However, at the Party life meeting, Yu Qiuli unexpectedly