Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
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Prisoner of the State is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to China and who was dethroned at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 for trying to stop the massacre. Zhao spent the last years of his life under house arrest. An occasional detail about his life would slip out, but scholars and citizens lamented that Zhao never had his final say.
But Zhao did produce a memoir, secretly recording on audio tapes the real story of what happened during modern China’s most critical moments. He provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown, describes the ploys and double crosses used by China’s leaders, and exhorts China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long-term stability. His riveting, behind-the-scenes recollections form the basis of Prisoner of the State.
The China that Zhao portrays is not some long-lost dynasty. It is today’s China, where its leaders accept economic freedom but resist political change. Zhao might have steered China’s political system toward openness and tolerance had he survived. Although Zhao now speaks from the grave, his voice still has the moral power to make China sit up and listen.
this, on the afternoon of May 1, I proposed at a Politburo Standing Committee meeting that the Politburo order the Central Disciplinary Commission and Ministry of Supervision to open an investigation of my family members. Later I sent a formal letter to the Politburo to request that it support my proposal. Another issue that the students cared about was press freedom. On May 6, in a discussion about reforming press policy with comrades [PSC member] Hu Qili and [Central Committee Secretariat
a statement with all the elders present, Deng Xiaoping and Marshal Nie [Rongzhen] and others, they would be even more offended. So, just as the words reached my lips, I refrained myself. When the voting took place on the resolution, however, I not only refused to vote in favor, I raised my hand to vote to oppose the measure and at the same time proclaimed, “I do not take issue with being dismissed from my positions, but I do not agree with nor accept the two accusations!” After I said this, no
corruption and the promotion of political reform, and were not advocating the overthrow of the Communist Party or the subversion of the republic. The situation would have subsided if we had not interpreted the students’ actions as being anti-Party and anti-socialist, but had accepted their reasonable demands and had adopted measures of patient negotiation, dialogue, and reducing tensions. If so, not only would all the negative impacts of the bloody 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 79 3/9/09
to average and wealthier ones, the policy was gradually perfected. I mentioned above that I was enthusiastic about the system of rural household enterprise contracts. My views on this were fully expressed in the documentation of a meeting of provincial and municipal first secretaries on the household land contract scheme, held in September 1980. The summary was distributed nationwide on September 29, 1980, by the Central Committee. The summary indicated, “The Specialized Household Contracts
state-owned enterprises. It wouldn’t be easy to change the habit of “eating from one rice bowl” or “taking the profit but sharing the losses.” I emphasized first the development of township-owned enterprises in the coastal regions. These enterprises were flexible and easier to deal with. I had looked into many township enterprises and saw that they delivered on time, paid attention to quality, and had very good reputations. There was a third concern, held mainly by academics and scholars