Signed by a certain Zhong Zhengping, probably a pseudonym, the hard line response was reprinted in three pro-CCP Hong Kong newspapers and in the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily (an English language paper read mostly by foreigners).
In the former British Crown Colony, the English edition of Zhao’s memoirs sold like cupcakes. The first printing of the Chinese edition, 14,000 copies, was sold out in just a few hours.
The anti-Zhao response contains nothing about the Tiananmen massacre, an event Beijing would like to see buried and forgotten, but insists that the case against the former party chief was ironclad.
Before the crackdown Zhao opposed the army intervention. For this reason he was accused of creating divisions within the party and placed under house arrest until his death in 2005.
The response goes further. It belittles Zhao’s role in China’s reforms and modernisation, whilst magnifying the role of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who rejected talks with students in 1989, who have been described as counterrevolutionaries, and this despite a rising tide in public opinion for whom they were sincere patriots who wanted more democracy and less corruption.
On Wednesday, Qi Lin (another pseudonym) slammed Western media for ballyhooing Zhao’s memoirs in order to put pressures on the Chinese government and force it to change its views on the 1989 protests and adopt a Western-styled democracy.
Within the CPP the 4 June massacre remains taboo. The fact that a commentary on Zhao’s book came forward at all is sign of how much the latter touched a sensitive nerve and caused widespread reactions and debate in the country and abroad.
For some analysts given HKCNA's ambiguous semi-official status, the articles are likely to reflect the viewpoints of some officials, not the party leadership as a whole.
Poon Siu-to, a Hong Kong-based commentator, said that if the articles reflected the party leadership's viewpoint, they would be published by the People's Daily and Xinhua.
Paul Lin, a Taipei-based political commentator, said the articles might be a sign of an internal power struggle, suggesting there are some voices within the party calling for a revision of its verdict on Zhao.
“If a government is so vulnerable that a review of history causes turmoil, then one must ask questions about the stability and legitimacy of the regime,” said Prof Joseph Cheng Yu-shek at City University of Hong Kong.
As 4 June approaches China’s main dissidents have come under closer surveillance.
Bao Tong, a former Zhao aide who spent 20 years in jail, under house arrest or facing major restrictions, worked on the late leader’s memoirs. Recently he has been taken out of Beijing but “was not forced to go,” his son Bao Pu said. Instead he accepted to stay in a scenic mountain retreat in Anhui province until 7 June.
Dissidents Qi Zhiyong, who lost a leg after being shot during the crackdown, and Jiang Qisheng, a philosophy professor jailed in 1999 on subversion charges for calling on people to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the crackdown, are under house and tight surveillance.
Still the Mothers of Tiananmen, a group whose 128 members lost sons and daughters on the night of 3-4 June 1989, appealed again on “all those who have information about the tragedy” to come forward so that the fate of many young people who disappeared can be determined.
In its appeal, the group called for an official investigation into what happened, compensation for the victims and punishments for the perpetrators of the massacre.