January 17, 2005


Purged Chinese Leader Zhao Ziyang Dies at 85 (Philip P. Pan, January 17, 2005, Washington Post)

Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese Communist leader who pioneered market reforms that transformed China's economy and was ousted as party general secretary for opposing the 1989 military assault on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, died Monday morning at a hospital in Beijing. He was 85.

The official New China News Agency said Zhao, who had lived under house arrest for the past 15 years, "had long suffered from multiple diseases affecting his respiratory and cardiovascular systems." Family friends said he was hospitalized in early December for pneumonia and fell into a coma Friday night after suffering a series of strokes.

"He is free at last," said his daughter, Wang Yannan, in a statement sent to friends at 7:37 a.m.

Zhao was a symbol of what might have been in China if the Communist leadership had negotiated a settlement instead of firing on the student protesters demanding political reform in 1989. His successors were haunted by him, worried even in the last days of his life that those frustrated by the party's authoritarian rule might rally around the former Communist Party chief. [...]

In an essay last year, Bao Tong, a senior aide of Zhao's who is under house arrest, said the Chinese leadership "made a decision to erase history, to erase the name of Zhao Ziyang, because when absolute power went insane, it was Zhao who rang the bell of reason and compassion."

Yet, sooner or later, the bells will ring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 17, 2005 11:41 AM
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