Olympic Watch: human rights in China and the Beijing 2008 Olympics OLYMPIC WATCHOLYMPIC WATCH


Zhao Ziyang, a 1989 reformist, dies

Zhao Ziyang, the Premier of the PRC and Secretary General of the Communist Party of China in the 1980s, died in Beijing this morning. Zhao was a proponent of a democratic reform to socialism in China. He was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, when he attempted to prevent the impending massacre of pro-reform activists of the Tiananmen Square. He was subsequently stripped off all his positions and martial law was declared in the country. Zhao spent the last fifteen years of his life under house arrest. “Zhao Ziyang was a brave man and a great Chinese patriot. The way the government treated him in the last fifteen years of his life is shameful. May his passing away be a reminder to the whole world that the Beijing leadership continues to trample on the human rights and liberties of Chinese citizens, who wish for more democracy in China. Zhao will certainly continue to live in the memories and hopes of all good Chinese people,” noted Jan Ruml, Chairman of Olympic Watch, on his passing away.

Already last year, when his health started to deteriorate, speculations have emerged that his departure might mobilize human rights and democracy activists in China. (Similar to the 1976 and 1989 rallies being initiated by the deaths of popular leaders.)

However, as soon as last week when Zhao fell into coma, the Beijing regime stepped up security around the Heavenly Peace Square. Furthermore, because he has been under house arrest and erased from official history for so long, Zhao is not very well-known among younger Chinese. On the other hand, Xinhua, the official news agency, referred to him as “comrade” in today’s item about his death, which opens the possibility for a later rehabilitation, Reuters points out.

“He is free at last”, noted Zhao’s daughter, Wang Yannan according to Reuters.

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