He Who Shall Not Be Named…

From Martyn…

Reuters claim that two independent anonymous sources in Beijing confirm that Hu Ya0b@ng, the ex-Communist Party chief whose death sparked the 1989 TS protests, is to be officially rehabilitated by the Chinese leadership. The party may have been emboldened by the low-key death of Zh@o Z1yang earlier in January and its failure to spark off even the merest semblance of anti-government protests:

Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has decided to rehabilitate a predecessor, whose death sparked the 1989 TS protests, two well-placed independent sources said, a move that may burnish Hu’s dented reformist credentials.

The Chinese government has not publicly commemorated the birth or death of Hu Ya0bang since he died on April 15, 1989, lest publicity reignite the democratic spark snuffed out on J*ne 4 that year when the army crushed the student-led dem0nstrations. State media rarely mention his name.
Hu Jintao decided recently that the party would officially mark the 90th anniversary of Hu Ya0bang’s birth on November 20 at the Great Hall of the People, said a source close to the family and a second source with knowledge of the commemorations.

But the party would not overturn its verdict that the TS protests were “c0unter-rev0lutionary”, or subversive, said the sources who requested anonymity.

One of the sources reports that that some of the current Politburo Standing Committee will attend the commemoration and that Hu Jintao wishes to play the Hu Ya0bang card to inherit his political resources and work on improving his ‘reformer’ image after a number of crackdowns on liberal intellectuals, the media, the Internet and non-governmental organisations and further restrictions on basic freedoms.

Hu Ya0bang resigned as party chief in 1987 over a wave of student unrest after party hardliners had accused him of allowing “bourgeois liberalism” — Western values — to spread unchecked. But he retained his seat in the party’s elite Politburo.
Hu Ya0bang was popular among ordinary Chinese for rehabilitating millions, including landlords, rich farmers and intellectuals purged during the 1957 Ant1-R1ghtist Movement. He gave victims of the chaotic 1966-76 Cu1tural Revo1ution their lives back and reopened schools suspended for a decade.
A diminutive man with the common touch, he liked to shock — once proposing that the Chinese stop using chopsticks and adopt knives and forks instead.

All during the 90s commentators speculated that Zha0 Z1yang’s eventual death under house arrest could well spark new anti-government protests and social unrest. However, his, albeit low-key and very under-reported, death in January produced hardly even a glimmer of interest from the general population. It clearly highlighted how much Chinese society had changed from the late 80s. Indeed, the possible rehabilitation of Hu Ya0bang also serves as a reminder of the confidence of the CCP in the face of a truly apolitical populace and also highlights how successful the communist party has been in crushing all opposition within China.

The Discussion: 25 Comments

That’s interesting. I just goolgled “Hu Ya0b@ng” and this is the only story on the www reporting this so you did well to spot it.

As you say, the fact that the CCP feel they can do this shows how effective they have been in:

1) Brain-washing the population into a nationalist frenzy (compare teenagers to older people).

2) Making them suspicious of anything foreign.

3) Crushing ALL internal opposition to the CCP.

Chinese people know darn well what they can and can’t do. They can chase after making money but they cannot critcise the government.

Therefore, I’m not sure if this news about Hu’s rehibilitation is actually GOOD or BAD news.

September 4, 2005 @ 4:44 am | Comment

Also, we probably will never see a full apology from the government for the TSM by this or any CCP government. The leaders haven’t got the guts for it and they never like to admit they are wrong.

Same way the CCP can shrug off 70 millions of deaths in peacetime by saying Mao was 30% incorrect.

September 4, 2005 @ 4:47 am | Comment

Well, if they acknowledged their crimes then they will be at risk of having to pay for them. Besides, no need to do something as drastic as that for the moment, is there?

September 4, 2005 @ 5:22 am | Comment

I’m surprised to be honest that they are rehibilitating him. I can only agree with the article which states that Hu Jintao wants people to see him as a reformer after reigning in a lot of the freedoms that were allowed by his predesessor Jiang Zemin.

However, even though it’s good news, it still doesn’t change the fact that those freedoms have been rolled back these last few years following an increase in protest and social unrest etc.

One new thing this year has been the pprotests by people living in the shadow of pollution and polluting factories.

September 4, 2005 @ 5:48 am | Comment

Hmmm, they are rehibilitating him? Isn’t it funny how China clings on to the Cold War-era, Soviet Union-type system of “rehibilitation” and “purges” and “house arrests” and “factions/power centers”.

For a country like China that has been opening up to the world for pushing 30 years now, the old Communist Party of China still remains very much in the old world.

Good point above by Rich about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s good that the party are facing up to past historical mistakes (ever heard that phrase before?!) but, like the post says, it just shows how little the CCP fears the population. That’s frightening.

I mean to say, are the Chinese people really happy with their government or just too scared to say it?

September 4, 2005 @ 7:22 am | Comment

I’d say that most of the Chinese people I talk with every day are happy enough with their government. Certainly not ecstatic, but happy enough. As long as the government allows them to continue doing what they like to do, which pretty much means making money, without too much interference then they’re not going to complain too much.

(I’d say right now the CPC would probably get a higher rating from its citizens than the US government appears to be getting from Americans. But then I’ve only talked to one American in the past week. And that was Richard.)

September 4, 2005 @ 9:33 am | Comment

weekend links

This sounds like an unpleasant way to lo

September 4, 2005 @ 11:45 am | Comment


Yeah but you’ve picked a pretty bad time to talk about US govt approval ratings!

Nevertheless, you stumbled onto an excellent point. Namely, how the hell can the CCP have approval ratings?!

Firstly, there is no other choice.

Secondly, there won’t ever be another choice.

Thirdly, who the hell would dare to say to some pollster that they are UNHAPPY with the government?!?

Doesn’t that just sum it up nicely?

September 4, 2005 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

Obviously Rob, you don’t talk with ordinary Chinese, or else you would know that those who care about politics are happy about their central government, and those who don’t care about politics, well…they just don’t care. You shouldn’t think of yourself being a missionary, telling the Chinese people what is good or not, or what they should do or not…

September 4, 2005 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

Amazes me in this day and age the views towards a 16-year old corpse has to be dictated by an unelected body. Is it any wonder the 1.3 billion people in this country can spout off as one about any topic you throw at them?

September 4, 2005 @ 4:40 pm | Comment

Nice find, Martyn. If this is true, it would be another very smart political move by Hu Jintao. Rehabiliating Hu Yaobang carries very low risk but has potentially high rewards. Although Hu Yaobang was removed from the party leader’s post in 1987, he remained in the Politburo and officially was still a member in good standing with some “mistakes”. His funeral in 1989 was accorded the same status as that of a national leader, and was attended by pretty much all of the CCP’s top leaders and elders. So commemorating Hu Yaobang now would not be a major change from the party’s past treatment of HYB and would give not give Hu Jintao’s opponents any excuse for criticism. On the other hand, this gesture could be very useful for Hu Jintao to endear himself to the reform minded wings of the party, which initially strongly supported Hu but have been disappointed with developments in the last couple of years.

September 4, 2005 @ 4:40 pm | Comment

Zhj, I’ve talked and lived and worked with ordinary Chinese people and I know plenty who will, when they think they’re safe, express dissatisfaction with their government. Not “talkin’ ’bout a revolution” dissatisfied, but “some things need to change” dissatisfied.

But they only say it when they feel safe. When they believe no one is listening or watching. Guess what? That’s one of the things they don’t like.

I like, Zhj, how you totally confirmed what we’re saying. You said ordinary Chinese who care about politics like the government… not some ordinary Chinese, you implied ALL. Way to both a) confirm that people are afraid of speaking out and b) stereotype Chinese people. Because there’s no such thing as a group of human beings that honestly agree 100% about anything.

September 4, 2005 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

Certainly not 1 billion of them, anyway.

September 4, 2005 @ 6:27 pm | Comment

I may be way off base here, but I wonder if all the hoopla commemorating Chen Yun’s birthday a few weeks back was part of some quid-pro-quo HJT did with the elders so he can now rehabilitate HYB.

I take a completely different view to Martyn. To rehabilitate HYB will be a big break with the JZM years and will say that political reform is needed to match the pace of economic reform. It would be the first crack in the dam IMHO.

September 4, 2005 @ 8:20 pm | Comment

Given that the only “politics” that exist in China are the hidden, inside machinations of the CCP, and that the vast and overwhelming majority of the Chinese people (1) have no idea what is actually happening within the CCP; (2) have absolutely no influence over what happens within the CCP; (3) can get in very serious trouble if they express desires and opinons that diverge from those of the CCP; and (4) there is no such thing as in independent opinion poll in China, it’s not at all surprising that, when asked, most people claim not to have an opinion and, of those who do claim an opinion, most of those decline to express an unfavourable one.

What would you say if a stranger, whose whose affiliations are motives are unknown to you, asked your opinion about a government with the power and proven willingness to ruin your life and/or lock you up as it sees fit should you express dissent?

Under those circumstances I suspect that the answer “no opinion” covers for a great deal of discreet dissatisfaction.

September 4, 2005 @ 10:17 pm | Comment

Dylan, an interesting suggestion, but the 2 events, to my knowledge, are rather different in nature. The symbolic significance of the two men, if there is any, is also not entirely the same. CY might have some disagreements with Deng over the scale of economic reforms. But he had always been hailed a revolutionary hero. So attending a seminar in commemoration of his life and death is very much a public demonstration of Chinese political leaders’ support for the CCP Yan’an revolutionary line. The proposed commemoration of HYB is, however, a rather unusual move. In the past, as I understand, HYB’s commemorations were always held as private functions, even though they were well attended by Chinese political leaders. I’m not too sure if the public rehabilitation of HYB is a “clever political move” as Hui Mao has suggested because it does carry significant risks and open the doors to other demands re: the June 4th incident. It is impossible to rehabilitate HYB without touching on ZZY and June 4th??!!! – I’ll defer my judgement until more info is available.

September 5, 2005 @ 1:51 am | Comment

I admit that was a cheap dig at the US government. It is a bad time for them.
Just saw on the CCTV news that China is releasing US$5 million of foreign reserves in aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which makes me think about the “Export Bust” thread, and just how far China will go to make sure that its largest customer can keep on buying. (That sounds unfeeling, I’m sure that the Chinese also don’t like to see people suffering, as they did also rush to help the victims of the tsunami.)

Anyway, the point I was trying to make in my original comment was pretty much the same as davegonechina’s. I also live and work with Chinese people every day. I’ve heard them spouting party propoganda, but I’ve also heard them talking openly and honestly in a safe environment. They’re NOT ecstatic with their government. There are plenty of grumbles, and plenty of niggles, and things they’d like to see change, but…overall…in general, they seem content enough.
I think that they feel that the benefits they could gain from a potential change of government (more freedom, less repression) would be completely out-weighed by the chaos and turbulence that would result from such a change. In Russia in 1989 what happened to the economy? Do the Chinese people feel strongly enough about their government to risk going through economic melt-down? No. They don’t.
Maybe in the future…but maybe not. In my opinion it depends on the economy. As long as that’s going strongly the CPC have nothing to worry about. As soon as it starts to go into decline the CPC will have to be on their guard.
I have a grudging admiration for Deng Xiaoping with his, “To get rich is glorious,” and his, “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches a rat.” Deng understood Chinese culture and psychology very well. And he also made sure, in that square in 1989 that everyone had blood on their hands, not just him.

On another point: did you know that HYB’s grave is in GongQing in Jiangxi and that over the years there has been a steady trickle of top leaders visiting it? It seems that many of them liked the guy, and respected him, but after the events of June 1989 they were unable to say so openly.

September 5, 2005 @ 1:52 am | Comment

Hope you are right, Dylan. the continuing crackdown on the media makes me wonder though…the last week I have really, truly appreciated an unfettered press. Lousy as the press has been in the states lately, they’ve really done a bang-up job with this crisis, and I wonder how much we would know about what went on otherwise.

September 5, 2005 @ 2:26 am | Comment

The fun with speculating about the inner workings of the Chinese government is that there are no correct answers. Everybody could be right or wrong but most likely somewhere in between.

Martyn takes the slightly cynical but perhaps realistic view that Hu Jintao is so confident of his govt’s iron grip on society that he can wheel out the memory of HYB and promote himself as a refomer, a stance that he’s been gradually losing since coming to power.

Dylan is more optimistic and says that this is a real break with the Jiang Zemin era and shows the reality of that the China govt must match social reform with economic reform in order to ensure future social harmony (please correct me if I’m wrong here Dylan).

Perhaps both views are correct? However, I’m torn btween two views:

1) Perhaps Hu Jintao has waited until he feels that the CCP are in comlete control of a relatively closed society before pushing on with his reforms, starting with the rehibilitation of HYB.


2) Perhaps Hu Jintao is pressured into at least looking like he’s trying to claw back his reformist credentials by an increasingly fractious and protest-ridden society.

As I say, I’m unsure as to which is the more accurate.

September 5, 2005 @ 6:03 am | Comment

On the issue of “government satisfaction” in China, it isn’t helpful to look at people as those who are interested in politics and those who are not. As there is only one political party, those interested in politics are almost always going to support the government. Whereas those who don’t are either technically dissidents or “don’t care” types.

But the “don’t cares” DO care about things such as social welfare, the environment, personal rights, etc. And they form by far the largest share of the population – the working & lower middle classes are too busy to worry about what legislation comes out of Beijing unless it directly affects them. Whilst relatively few Chinese would oppose the government, they don’t actively support it.

It’s a “let’s make the most of the current situation” mentality. They can’t do anything, so they might as well get on with their lives. Again, few people want the CCP to collapse, but I don’t think they’re happy with the status-quo, and they want a lot to be changed.

September 5, 2005 @ 7:44 am | Comment

On a personal note, most of the Chinese people I know don’t really like or trust the government. They tend to switch off mentally whenever anything political comes up on the news, as it’s normally biased.

At the moment there’s only the CCP and nothing to choose between. But they thought that if something better came along, they’d give it a go.

September 5, 2005 @ 7:50 am | Comment

Yes, people wrote and said the same things about the people of the Soviet Union as late as the mid-1980s: they’re not interested in politics, they don’t oppose the government only those pesky dissidents do, etc. The sad fact is no one knows for sure what the people think until they get a chance to express their opinions without fear.

September 5, 2005 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

I know this thread is nearly dead, but just to say that Beijing-run Wen Wei Po is reporting that HYB’s b’day will be celebrated, but no rethink on Tiananmen verdict (yet). This is pretty close to official confirmation.

September 6, 2005 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

dylan: China was and is very different compared to the Sovjet-Union.

In China there may be no independent opinion polls about how the people view their government, but it is not sound to conclude then that they don’t like their government. I can just say the opposite.

The usage of polls is very helpful though in improving governance. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair for example, just made policy and decisions based on polls. I hope China will use this tool as well, if it’s not used yet already.

September 6, 2005 @ 5:21 pm | Comment

Very nice site!

September 16, 2005 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.