Bao Tong, communist leader turned pro-democracy dissident, dies
He was the chief aide to former Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Both fell from grace for opposing the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989. After years in prison and under house arrest, he turned into a prolific pro-democracy advocate. For his daughter, Bao still harboured some hope for China.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Bao Tong – a key aide to Zhao Ziyang, a former general secretary of the Communist Party of China – died yesterday in the capital. Both leaders ended up in disgrace for defending young people who protested demanding freedom and democracy in the spring of 33 years ago.
Immediately after the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing on 4 June 1989, when thousands of people died at the hands of China’s military, the authorities arrested Bao, who became the highest-ranking Chinese official to end up in prison for the events of those days.
Together with Zhao, he had opposed the use of force against the demonstrators, who had taken to the streets after the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang amid the disintegration of the Soviet empire.
In 1992 a court sentenced Bao to seven years in prison for revealing state secrets and counter-revolutionary acts.
The authorities released him in 1996 but place him under house arrest. Since then, Bao became a prolific pro-democracy advocate constantly monitored by the security apparatus.
Together with the Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo, he was one of the authors of Charter 08, a document published in 2008 that called on the government to grant greater democracy and show greater respect for human rights.
At the time, Bao addressed an open letter to China’s communist leaders, asking them to say how his appeal violated Chinese law.
In his years as an activist, Bao also worked to rehabilitate the figure of Zhao, purged in June 1989 by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, and placed under house arrest until his death in 2005.
According to Deng, Zhao had to be removed because of his overly conciliatory positions towards protesters.
A critic of Xi Jinping, Bao wrote that the Tiananmen events laid the foundations of the current “one mind” system: a police state in which people are inculcated with the mantra: "Follow the Party and prosper; oppose it and die”.
In a tweet, Bao’s daughter, Bao Jian, said the dissident still had "hope" for China. On his 90th birthday, last Sunday, he still wanted to give words of encouragement.
“Humans live such minuscule histories on this earth,” he said on his birthday. “It doesn't matter whether I made 90 or not. What matters is today, and the future that everyone is striving for. You must do whatever you can. Do it today, and do it well.”
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