04/16/2009, 00.00
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20th anniversary of the death of Hu Yaobang commemorated in private, or on the web

Today's China owes him a great deal: he was the one who shifted China from Maoist ideology to economic reform. His calls for political reform generated great expectations and demonstrations, until the massacre in Tiananmen. In 2005, Hu Jintao seemed to want to rehabilitate him.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - No public ceremony was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Hu Yaobang, the secretary of the Communist Party until 1987, who died on April 15, 1989. In 2005, an official commemoration was held, seeming to forecast a rehabilitation of his contribution to the country. Although books, television shows, and newspapers have remained silent, and most of the young people do not even know who he is, some websites have commemorated him as an enlightened politician and a reformer, whose teaching is valuable to today's China.

Hu Yaobang (1915 - 1989) was a veteran of the Long March, and a friend of Deng Xiaoping. Like him, during the Cultural Revolution he was branded twice as a "enemy of the people," and rehabilitated twice. After Mao died, he supported Deng against Mao's designated heir, Hua Guofeng, and was the main architect of economic reforms. During the 1980's, he worked to rehabilitate thousands of party members who had been unjustly marginalized and condemned during the Cultural Revolution, purifying Chinese society from ideological excesses, and also suggesting political openness and reforms. The hopes that he raised led many students to hold demonstrations in 1986, and call for greater democracy. Because of this, in 1987 Hu was removed from his position as secretary general of the Party.

When he died in 1989, his funeral was the occasion for new student demonstrations, which then erupted into the large-scale demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which ended with the massacre on June 4.

Although China owes a great deal to his openness, the connection between his liberal views and the young people of Tiananmen - judged as "counterrevolutionaries" - has led to silence about him on the part of Chinese officials. Still today, even on the internet China does not permit any direct access to Hu's thought, and search engines do not provide any results.

In 2005, with a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, the Party remembered him for his work rehabilitating members who had been condemned during the Cultural Revolution, but remained silent about the reasons for his removal. Many observers, however, thought that this was a first step for the complete rehabilitation of his thought, which would also be followed by the rehabilitation of the Tiananmen movement. These expectations were also encouraged by a variety of signs given by President Hu Jintao, indicating that he intended to implement some political reforms in the Party, and in China.

But over all these years, nothing that was expected was implemented, and at the latest Party Congress last December, and at the National People's Assembly, there was no mention of political reforms, while unrest continues to increase in society because of injustice, inequity, and corruption.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, yesterday Hu Yaobang's family commemorated the great statesman in Jiujiang (Jiangxi), where he is buried. Other than this, only a few websites set up any virtual memorial.

On Lifeall.com, a number of messages say that "a lot of Chinese people still miss you"; others says that they "miss your bold approach to reverse wronged cases, miss your down-to-earth, democratic style." One 27-year-old man who has emigrated abroad promises Hu Yaobang that he will "follow in your footprints and accomplish the mission you had pursued."

According to the South China Morning Post, last week in Beijing there was a private seminar on Hu Yaobang's thought.

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