06/02/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Zhao Ziyang wrote the party asking for freedom

The former general secretary, who spent 15 years under house arrest for his opposition to the Tiananmen massacre, asked to be freed several times but never got an answer.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A collection of commemorative essays and never published writings will be released on June 4 in memory of the late Zhao Ziyang. Mr Ziyang, who passed away in January of last year, was the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disgraced because of his opposition to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Among the documents, there is letter, dated October 12, 1997 and addressed to all seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, in which Zhao describes his house arrest as a "brutal trampling of the socialist legal system".

Zhao, ousted in 1989 for sympathising with pro-democracy student demonstrators, was placed under house arrest for 15 years until his death.

Despite calls from Zhao, his family and supporters, the CCP leadership has refused to reassess the student-led pro-democracy movement. Instead, the party has labelled the pro-democracy movement as "counter-revolutionary" and described its suppression as good for the nation. In all these years, it has never accepted any reassessment of its "conclusion" fearing the consequences of reopening old wounds.

The veil of silence over the Tiananmen tragedy is such that the government allowed only a private funeral for Zhao, a man who pioneered economic change and democratic opening in China.

The previously unpublished letter follows another Zhao sent to party leaders attending a party congress a month earlier, in September 1997. In that letter, Zhao urged the leadership to seize the opportunity to rehabilitate the 1989 movement.

In the October letter, Zhao complained that after sending the earlier letter he was denied the freedom to meet visitors or leave his house. "Since June 1989," he wrote, "I have been held under illegal house arrest, whether it be semi-house arrest or full house arrest, for eight years."

"I don't know how much longer I will be able to endure such loss of personal freedom. This is a big harm to an 80-year-old man, both physically and psychologically."

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