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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Zhao Ziyang's candle burns low

Now in his mid-eighties, the former Chinese government offical seen as a pro-democracy advocate sympathetic to the "student" demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 1989, hovers near death under house arrest in his Beijing villa. Here is what the mid-day news broadcast today on CCTV-9, the English language station televised about his condition:




(nothing)




Chinese newspapers have been more forthcoming with reports, usually saying not much more than that he is very ill but still alive.

Each day at sunrise and sunset the Chinese gather in large numbers in Tiananmen Square to watch the red five-star flag raised and lowered. These days, there are more guards on duty at that time, for it was the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party chief fired in 1987 for allowing pro-democracy student unrest that sparked the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989. Should Zhao (pronounced "joe") expire, as seems likely, both the official and the independendent eulogies will reveal a great deal about the contemporary Chinese political temperement---more, as typical for Chinese public expression, by what they don't say than for what they do.

From the AP comes more details::
Sat Jan 15, 4:14 PM ET
By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING - Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese Communist Party leader deposed after tearfully sympathizing with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, was hospitalized in a coma Saturday and may be near death, a human rights activist said.

snip ...

Zhao has spent more than 15 years under house arrest since he was purged from the party leadership. He was accused of sympathizing with hunger strikers in Tiananmen Square who, for seven weeks, had demanded democratic reforms and the resignation of then-Premier Li Peng.

He was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, when he visited the square to talk to student hunger strikers, one day before martial law was declared.
Richard of The Peking Duck says, "with today's economy I can't imagine another widespread student rebellion taking shape." He's a more experienced China hand than I. It'll be interesting to see if China's robust economic development has affected the public's sensibilities about democracy, transparency and freedom.

UPDATE:
Beijing, January 17, 2005

Zhao passed away yesterday morning 7 A.M. Beijing time. There were notices in the press and at the office of the magazine for which I work, the Executive Editor in Chief sent around a notice of his passing by network message. Since then, all quiet in Beijing. There were reports that CNN's coverage of Zhao's death was blacked out yesterday, but it's mid-day in Beijing and I just saw a short piece as a "headline story" fronting the Insight program.

The New York Times ran China Gives Zhao's Death Scant Notice in the International section today. A short excerpt:
Whatever people think of Zhao as a leader, there is no question that he was the living symbol of Tiananmen," said a newspaper editor in Beijing, who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to the central square in Beijing where democracy protests took place.

"Leaders may feel that if the verdict on Zhao changes, people will use that to reassess the crackdown," he said.

Some have already begun using Mr. Zhao's death for that purpose. Among quiet expressions of support for Mr. Zhao on Monday was an impassioned statement from a group known as the Tiananmen Mothers, whose members lost relatives during the violent suppression.

"It was a blessing to have a leader who could lead the public peacefully toward freedom, democracy, wealth and strength," the statement said. "The only ray of hope for our troubled nation was extinguished" when he died, it said.


And today, on Martin Luther King's designated day of honor (the third Monday of January), a U.S. holiday in all 50 states, we Americans can reflect on how short of his dream we still are.

Candles go out but the light of hope is eternal. Everywhere.

// posted by Ellen @  00:26   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.


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