Rehabilitating Hu Yaobang

More good news from China. Despite strong opposition from party insiders, Hu Jintao is going to start rehabilitating the reputation of Hu Yaobang, the man whose death ignited the 1989 demonstrations that came to a head on June 4 when, as you’ll learn in the Chinese media, absolutely nothing happened. Hu will be memoriaized at an event on November 20.

While restoring the stature of the late Mr. Hu is unlikely to lead to a broad political opening soon – the party leadership has, after all, steadily tightened its grip over civil society and the media – it does provide a glimpse of the complex politicking that takes place among the ruling elite.

It also shows the enduring sensitivity surrounding the people and events connected with the 1989 protests. Political observers say the June 4 killings will haunt the party until it acknowledges having bloodily suppressed the mainly peaceful pro-democracy protests and can pay respect to the hundreds of people killed, injured or purged in the crackdown.

President Hu persisted with marking the anniversary of his predecessor even though four of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the top ruling body, expressed concern that the move could threaten stability, people told about the debate said.

The four – one of whom was Wen Jiabao, the prime minister – were said to have different reasons for opposing the commemoration. But all argued that the move potentially risked giving people the idea that the circumstances surrounding the 1989 demonstrations, which the party has condemned as a massive antigovernment plot, could be perceived as open for discussion, these people said…

Since taking over the party leadership in 2002, Mr. Hu has rejected ideas for political change and pursued a sustained crackdown on the press, nongovernment organizations, the legal profession and religious groups he views as threatening the party’s hold on power.

Whether it’s an act of political expediency or not — and the article makes it pretty clear it is — Hu’s certainly doing the right thing. Maybe a step in the direction of opening up a bit about that day when nothing happened…?

Update: I found this interesting:

A former top Chinese Communist Party aide has called on the regime to face up to its mistakes ahead of a memorial event for ousted late leader Hu Yaobang.

“I am in favor of commemorating Hu Yaobang. But it should be done with the right intent,” Bao Tong, who has lived under virtual house arrest in Beijing since his fall from grace after the 1989 student-led protests, wrote in a commentary aired Tuesday on RFA’s Mandarin service.

“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should learn a painful lesson from its treatment of Hu Yaobang, and through its commemoration of him, should learn once more the art of self-criticism,” Bao said.

“The spirit of Hu Yaobang should be allowed to permeate China’s political and cultural life, to sweep away the suffocating air of tyranny, corruption, and hypocrisy, and create another few million Hu Yaobangs.”

I strongly recommend he not hold his breath.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

When the CCP learns to face up to its mistakes and not try to deny or minimise them, they will have earned the right to ask Japan to do the same.

November 15, 2005 @ 3:18 am | Comment

Ah, “the art of self-criticism”. Especially provocative aeroplane-style.

November 15, 2005 @ 4:25 am | Comment

It’s interesting to note that Hu Jintao is a Protege of Hu Yaobang. So his decision to rehabilitate him was also partly personal.

Additionally, Wen Jiabao is a close aid to the late Zhao Ziyang (When Zhao Ziyang went onto the Square in 1989 to plead the students and urge them to leave, Wen Jiabao was behind him).

So insider sources say that when Hu Jintao raised the issue of rehabilitating Hu Yaobang, Wen said “What about Zhao?” The reason Wen was in opposition is because Wen wanted to rehabilitate Zhao as well, not just Hu Yaobang.

But the issue is that, if you rehabilitate Zhao, you cannot get around the issue of 1989. Rehabilitating Zhao is politically equivalent to rehabilitating 1989, and that is something CCP is not yet ready for.

When Zhao Ziyang died, the State media played down his funeral and there was no publicity for his death whatsover. But Wenjiabao paid a personal visit to Zhao’s family.

November 15, 2005 @ 10:43 am | Comment

Yes, the CCP still hasn’t accepted what it did in at Plus I guess it still hasn’t found a way to explain how Zhao Ziyang was removed from power without the use of the words “treason” or “coup”.

November 15, 2005 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

Ming Pao Declares Hu Jintao Greatly Different

In a special brief commentary this morning, {babelfish translation to English} Ming Pao trumpets that Hu Jintao differs greatly from Jiang Zemin based upon the news that the CCP will officially honour the late leader Hu Yaobang.
Yes, very different. The

November 15, 2005 @ 6:13 pm | Comment

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