Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
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Prisoner of the State is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to China and who was dethroned at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 for trying to stop the massacre. Zhao spent the last years of his life under house arrest. An occasional detail about his life would slip out, but scholars and citizens lamented that Zhao never had his final say.
But Zhao did produce a memoir, secretly recording on audio tapes the real story of what happened during modern China’s most critical moments. He provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown, describes the ploys and double crosses used by China’s leaders, and exhorts China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long-term stability. His riveting, behind-the-scenes recollections form the basis of Prisoner of the State.
The China that Zhao portrays is not some long-lost dynasty. It is today’s China, where its leaders accept economic freedom but resist political change. Zhao might have steered China’s political system toward openness and tolerance had he survived. Although Zhao now speaks from the grave, his voice still has the moral power to make China sit up and listen.
was made, it was not authoritative in any way. Leaders were changed frequently at the command center, and things proceeded according to the ideas of whoever’s voice was loudest and most rousing. We tried to persuade the student leaders by mobilizing university leaders and professors to talk to them, but these efforts fell on deaf ears. Because of Li Peng and his associates, the principal guidelines of reducing tension, opening dialogue, and persuasion had not been implemented. On the fourth day
self-criticism. The second time they came, they had realized I was not going to write one, so they had tried to persuade me to remain silent. When the meeting was drawing to a close, I requested a chance to speak. He [Yao Yilin] looked at his watch and said, “We’ve run out of time. If you must speak, keep it under ten minutes.” I was very upset. I said, “After all this time in session to deal with my case, after two whole days of criticisms, how can you now allow me so little time to respond?!”
in spring of 1988, Yao Yilin was assigned to lead the State Economic Planning Commission in a study of the specifics 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 129 3/9/09 2:16:35 PM 130 Prisoner of the State of implementation. In the summer of 1988, the proposed plan by Yao Yilin and the State Economic Planning Commission was passed, after back-and-forth discussions at an enlarged Politburo Standing Committee meeting in Beidaihe [the beach resort where Party leaders convene each summer]. The
everything: from harvesting the crops in the fields to threshing, drying, and transportation. Chen Yun had not directly expressed whether he supported or opposed it. Once, he sent some people to ask me: there were often rains during the harvest season in the south, and the drying process is not fast enough to keep the grain from growing moldy—is this a problem that can be avoided with the household land contract scheme? After looking into it, I replied to him that after the introduction of the
Yet a majority disagreed with the original draft and it failed to pass. 28757 Prisoner of the State.indd 169 3/9/09 2:16:45 PM 170 Prisoner of the State After returning from Beidaihe, Yaobang told me through his secretary Zheng Bijian that he believed it was still necessary to have such a document, but the fact that there were so many disagreements put him in a difficult position. He wished to hear my opinion. I said that I had always wondered whether we even needed the resolution, but if