Keeping Beijing under pressure is the path to democracy, says Bao Tong
In an essay commemorating the Tiananmen masscre, former Communist Party Central Committee member Bao Tong (a friend to former party secretary Zhao Ziyang) slams the country’s current leadership for being “incapable of becoming reformed characters”. The anniversary of the repression is commemorated by the Mothers of Tiananmen and a Chengdu paper.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square bloodbath was commemorated across China. On the one hand, there were those who commemorated the victims of the bloody government repression; on the other, there was the government itself forced to tighten its control over the population and the media.

And yet despite tighter controls, the Communist regime seemed to have loosened up a bit over the years. For the first time the president of the “Mothers of Tiananmen” was allowed to place flowers and a candle on the spot where her son died, whilst in Chengdu a local paper published an announcement that saluted “with respect” the relatives of the victims. As one might expect the announcement did not stay long on the paper and the mother who placed flowers in Tiananmen Square was followed by plain-clothes policemen.

Police was deployed around the square and, as attested by many human rights activists, tens of political dissidents were forced under house arrest. The government in fact has used such “preventive” measures as a matter of course ahead of certain sensitive dates to prevent potential popular protest.

According to Bao Tong, a former member of the Communist Party central Committee and personal secretary and friend to former Party Secretary Zhao Zhiyang, the “pressure exerted by the Chinese people is indeed a good thing; its vice-like grip gives us the best available tool with which to reform an authoritarian, one-party state.”

Bao, 74, was one of the main aides to the former leader of the Communist Party and the highest ranking official arrested as a result of the June 4, 1989, crackdown, because of his and Zhao’s opposition to sending in the army and tanks to crush the students. Before falling into disgrace and spending seven years in prison he had closely worked with current premier, Wen Jiabao.

In a memorial essay written for the 18th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, Bao hit out at those who “are prepared to sell their own souls, who in the past 18 years have praised the massacre perpetrated by that butcher [i.e. Deng Xiaoping] as providing a firm basis for prosperity, because he broke the will of the people with his iron fist.”

“This chairman gave the order to the People's Liberation Army to shoulder their assault weapons and drive tanks in a move that crushed and strafed” demonstrators, Bao said. The net result was that the “number of injured went beyond the capacity of emergency rooms in the capital to handle. The dead were piled up in the morgues.” In the end the “rest of the world witnessed the bloodbath in China's capital via satellite television.”

For Bao the current leadership is not much better than the old patriarch, Deng. In his view “[t]oday's leaders are incapable of becoming reformed characters, but they should at least say one sincere thing, utter a note of responsibility, if they wish to rule in a constitutional way, to give China at least some kind of footing on which to begin its long march to democracy.”

He concludes his essay with a warning, saying that an “utterly repressive society leads to an utterly corrupt prosperity. Repression has split China down the middle, into a paradise for corrupt officials and a purgatory for those with no power.”