May 15, 2009

A voice from the grave speaks for Chinese reform



Zhao Ziyang

Four years after his death, secretly recorded memoirs of former Chinese Communisty Party leader Zhao Ziyang, in which he criticizes his government for its rejection of democratic reforms and for the “tragedy” of Tiananmen Square, have been smuggled out of the country and are about to be published.

According to a Guardian report by Tania Branigan, the memoir — recorded while Ziyang was under house arrest after being ousted for sympathising with the Tiananmen demonstrators — will come out in both English and Chinese in time for the 20th anniversary of the massacre, and be called Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang.

“People thought Zhao was probably broken and bitter and at the very least had so much surveillance there was no way he could have offered his final word on Tiananmen. But he had —- and nobody knew,” says Adi Ignatius, one of the editors of the English language edition being released by Simon & Schuster. “It will remind people that Tiananmen did not have to end up as it did; it was a power struggle at the top level —- nothing to do with putting down a violent rebellion.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives