Archive for ‘Communist Party’

13/06/2019

From cosplay to cause play: why the Communist Party supports a revival in traditional Chinese clothing

  • Han costumes are enjoying a renaissance across China, buoyed by a call to nationalism backed by President Xi Jinping
Women wear Han-style clothing in Beijing as part of April’s Traditional Chinese Costume Day celebration. Photo: AFP
Women wear Han-style clothing in Beijing as part of April’s Traditional Chinese Costume Day celebration. Photo: AFP
Dressed in a flowing robe adorned with beaded floral embroidery from a bygone era, stylist Xiao Hang looks like she emerged from a time machine as she strides across the bustling Beijing metro, attracting curious glances and questions.
While China embraced Western fashion as its economy boomed in recent decades, now a growing number of young people like Xiao look to the past for their sartorial choices and have adopted hanfu, or Han clothing.
The costumes of the Han ethnic majority are enjoying a renaissance in part because the government is promoting traditional culture in an effort to boost patriotism and national identity.

Like the film, television and comic book productions that have inspired cosplay fans in the West, period dramas on Chinese TV have contributed to the surge in interest in traditional clothing. The Story of Minglan, a series set during the Song dynasty, attracted more than 400 million viewers over three days when it was first shown this year.

The success of television drama The Story Of Minglan this year reflects China’s interest in its Han heritage. Photo: Baidu
The success of television drama The Story Of Minglan this year reflects China’s interest in its Han heritage. Photo: Baidu

While each Han-dominated dynasty had its own style, hanfu outfits were generally characterised by loose, flowing robes with sleeves that reached the knees.

“When we were little, we would drape sheets and duvets around ourselves to pretend we were wearing beautiful clothes,” Xiao said.

Once a worker at a state-owned machine manufacturing company, Xiao now runs her own hanfu business, where she dresses customers for photo shoots and plans hanfu-style weddings.

The Hanfu fashion revival: ancient Chinese dress finds a new following

In modern China, the hanfu community includes history enthusiasts and anime fans, students and young professionals.

Yang Jiaming, a high school pupil in Beijing, wears his outfit under his school uniform.

“Two-thirds of my wardrobe are hanfu,” he said, decked out in a Tang-style beige gown and black boots, adding that his classmates and teachers were supportive of his fashion choices.

A government-supported revival in Chinese culture has energised the hanfu community. Since he entered office in 2012, President Xi Jinping has supported the promotion of a Han-centric vision of Chinese heritage.

Fans of traditional Chinese clothing dare to mix old and new, and hanfu is not the preserve of women. Photo: AFP
Fans of traditional Chinese clothing dare to mix old and new, and hanfu is not the preserve of women. Photo: AFP

In April, the Communist Youth League of China launched a two-day conference celebrating traditional Chinese garb, which included hanfu and took in Traditional Chinese Costume Day.

A live broadcast of the event drew about 20 million viewers, alongside an outpouring of emotions.

“Chinese people have abandoned their own culture and chosen Western culture. The red marriage gown has now become a wedding dress,” wrote a user of Bilibili, a video-streaming platform popular among young anime, comic and gaming fans in China.

Clothes were the “foundation of culture”, said Jiang Xue, who is part of Beijing-based hanfu club Mowutianxia, which has received funding from the Communist Youth League.

“If we as a people and as a country do not even understand our traditional clothing or do not wear them, how can we talk about other essential parts of our culture?” she said.

Forget K-pop and US missiles, Korea is back in fashion with China thanks to live-stream shopping

The style has not yet gained mainstream acceptance in China.

In March, two students in Shijiazhuang Medical College, in northern Hebei province, were reportedly threatened with expulsion for wearing the outfits to class.

Others said they were put off by the reaction they got while wearing hanfu in public.

“I used to be very embarrassed to wear [hanfu] out,” screenwriter Cheng Xia said.

The 37-year-old said she overcame her reservations after going out dressed in a full outfit last year.

Meanwhile, the movement to revive Han ethnic clothing has prompted questions about nationalism and Han-ethnocentrism – a sensitive issue in China, where the government is wary of conflict between ethnic groups.

High school pupils and young children are drawn to China’s hanfu trend. Photo: AFP
High school pupils and young children are drawn to China’s hanfu trend. Photo: AFP

For instance, within the hanfu community there is long-running opposition towards the qipao, the high-collared, figure-hugging garment that was once a staple of women’s wardrobes.

Known as cheongsam in Cantonese, the qipao – meaning “Qi robe” – began as a long, loose dress worn by the Manchu, or Qi people, who ruled China from the 17th century until the early 1900s.

Its popularity took off in 1920s Shanghai, when it was refashioned into a fitted must-have, favoured by actresses and intellectuals as a symbol of femininity and refinement.

“Some people … think that the cheongsam was inspired by the Qing dynasty, which is not enough to represent China. There are nationalist undertones in this issue,” Chinese culture scholar Gong Pengcheng said.

Master of a dying art: traditional dressmaker recalls golden era of cheongsam in Hong Kong

“It is a good trend to explore traditional culture and clothing culture … There are many things we can talk about, and we need not shrink to nationalist confrontation.”

Yang, the high school pupil, was more upbeat. He said: “At the very least, we can wear our own traditional clothes, just like the ethnic minorities.”

Source: SCMP

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12/06/2019

How Tiananmen crackdown left a deep scar on China’s military psyche

  • Many of those involved feel profound ‘guilt and shame’ over the lives lost in Beijing 30 years ago, according to two former PLA officers
  • Move to tone down language used to describe movement – as ‘political turmoil’ rather than a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ – came from army

The brutal military crackdown on peaceful protesters in Beijing 30 years ago might have saved the Communist Party’s rule, but it has since become a cross to bear for the People’s Liberation Army.

Today, the world’s largest fighting force is still haunted by the 

Tiananmen Square

tragedy in 1989, despite efforts to rebuild its image. After the bloodshed, it was the military that suggested the pro-democracy student movement be referred to not as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” but as a time of “political turmoil”, two former PLA officers told the South China Morning Post.

They said the move to tone down the language around the crackdown reflected the anxiety and shame felt by many rank-and-file officers over a fateful decision that has tainted the military’s reputation and legacy.

Up to that point, the PLA had been widely respected by the Chinese public. Even during the turbulent decade of the Cultural Revolution from 1966, the military was largely uninvolved. Rather, it was instrumental in bringing an end to the chaos and setting China on the path of reform and opening up.

The crackdown in 1989 was unprecedented for the PLA and dealt a crippling blow to its reputation and morale – and the question over the legitimacy of the decision to send in the tanks and open fire on the protesters remains.

“[I believe] the Tiananmen crackdown will be revisited one day – it’s just a matter of time. The ultimate responsibility will fall to those military leaders who directly implemented the decision,” a retired researcher with the PLA’s Academy of Military Science, who requested anonymity, told the Post.

PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters
PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters

Throughout history and across cultures, following orders has been a fundamental principle of military service. But the absence of a written order on the mission from the commander in chief – late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping – puts its legality in doubt.

It is estimated that hundreds, or perhaps more than 1,000, civilians were killed during the crackdown that began on the night of June 3 and continued until the morning.

“No matter whether it is one or 10,000 people killed, it’s still wrong to shoot at unarmed civilians,” said a retired PLA officer who served in the army’s political department and also declined to be named. “But [the troops] had to do this dirty job because the party’s rule was in danger.”

According to the former military researcher, many commanders involved in the crackdown questioned the decision to use force to quell the protests, particularly since they had only been given a verbal order from above and never saw a written instruction from Deng, who was chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
This was further complicated by the fact that Zhao Ziyang, the party’s general secretary at the time, openly opposed a military crackdown. Without the support and approval of the party’s chief, the operation violated the long-held principle of “the party commanding the gun”.
Even then CMC vice-chairman Yang Shangkun and Xu Qinxian, commander of the 38th Army Corps that had been sent to Beijing, had qualms about carrying out the verbal order, according to the former researcher.
It is not known how many troops were sent in to crush the protests, but the number could be as high as 200,000, according to a book by US-based scholar Wu Renhua.
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP

The retired PLA political officer said the instruction to commanders was to “clear out Tiananmen Square by June 4 – and whoever stands in our way is an enemy of the state”.

“Most officers and soldiers were only trained to use heavy weapons like machine guns and tanks. They didn’t even know there were things like rubber bullets, tear gas or other kinds of non-lethal weapons for crowd control,” said the former officer.

“To meet the deadline to clean up the square, some commanders asked their troops to shoot into the air to scare away the crowds – that was the only thing they could think of doing,” he said.

But although they started off firing into the air, ricocheting bullets hit many protesters as they fled and in the chaos and bloodshed, inexperienced troops panicked and started firing into the crowd, according to the former officer.

The army’s clean image was destroyed overnight, and in the minds of many, renmin zidibing – the army of our sons – became the feared and reviled tool of a killing regime.

It also left a psychological scar on the military, which is reflected in the effort to tone down the narrative around the crackdown.

The former researcher said the push to use “political turmoil” instead of the more provocative “counter-revolutionary rebellion” to describe the movement first appeared in a military academy reference book, the Chinese Military Encyclopaedia, in 1997. He said it was proposed by military advisers who believed it could help soften attitudes towards the crackdown.

Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua
Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua

Former president Jiang Zemin spoke of the “political turmoil” in 1989 during an interview with American journalist Mike Wallace in 2000, and the wording has since been widely used by state media.

Meanwhile, the suppression of the protesters also prompted calls for a separation of the army and the party, so the PLA would be a “national” force rather than a political one.

But after 

a decade of debate

, the idea was squashed by the top leadership in 2007, on the eve of the PLA’s 80th anniversary. It was labelled as a plot by hostile Western forces to topple communist rule in China and is now a taboo subject.

“But despite banning discussion of military nationalisation, the calls from within the PLA to rehabilitate the military and for a review of what happened with the student movement have never stopped,” the former PLA political officer said.
“Many senior military officers believe the students weren’t attempting to overthrow communist rule – they were just asking for a better political system. That’s why calling it a counter-revolutionary rebellion is wrong.”
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
On Sunday, days ahead of the 30th anniversary, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe

defended the Tiananmen crackdown

, telling a regional defence forum that putting an end to the “political turbulence” had been the “correct policy”.

“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes – do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June Fourth?
There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence,” Wei said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
But according to the former PLA researcher, military top brass involved in the crackdown still felt profound “guilt and shame” over the lives lost.
“None of those people in the PLA would feel a sense of honour for participating in the crackdown,” he said. “Instead they harbour a deep feeling of shame.”
Source: SCMP
05/06/2019

China runs Confucian culture courses for religious leaders in bid to boost control

  • Communist Party says those taking part pledged to ‘cultivate the Chinese cultural character of our nation’s religions’
  • Confucius has been rehabilitated by party in recent years as a means of rallying patriotism and countering foreign influences
The Communist Party for decades attacked the sage as a symbol of feudalism, but now Confucianism has been elevated. Photo: AP
The Communist Party for decades attacked the sage as a symbol of feudalism, but now Confucianism has been elevated. Photo: AP
China has begun five-day Confucian culture immersion courses for religious leaders in the sage’s hometown as part of a campaign to extend government control over faith communities through a

process of Sinicisation

.

The ruling Communist Party’s United Work Front Department said in a news release on Monday that the activity was designed to ensure the primacy of traditional Chinese values above all.

“To hold activities here … is a collective tribute to excellent traditional Chinese culture and a conscious identification and integration with Chinese culture,” said the release, posted on the department’s website.

Participants pledged to “cultivate the Chinese cultural character of our nation’s religions so that our nation’s religions are rooted in the fertile soil of excellent traditional Chinese culture, and to ceaselessly and deeply advance the Sinicisation of our nation’s religions”, it said.

The five-day immersion courses are being held in the sage’s hometown of Qufu. Photo: United Front Work Department
The five-day immersion courses are being held in the sage’s hometown of Qufu. Photo: United Front Work Department

President Xi Jinping has launched the harshest crackdown in decades on religious practices, especially those viewed as foreign such as Christianity and Islam, while at the same time elevating home-grown Confucianism.

While for decades the officially atheistic Communist Party attacked Confucius as a symbol of feudalism, he has been thoroughly rehabilitated in recent years as a means of rallying patriotism and countering foreign influences.

Confucianism’s emphasis on strict social organisation, advancement through study and exam taking, adherence to hierarchy and maintenance of social harmony appeals especially to the heavily bureaucratic party, which brooks no challenge to its authority.

Xi has repeatedly called for religious leaders and believers to be guided by “socialist core values”. Party bureaucrats overseeing religion have demanded that key religious tenets and texts such as the Bible and Koran be interpreted “in conformity with the demands of modern Chinese development and excellent traditional Chinese culture”.

That has been accompanied by a campaign of removing crosses and bulldozing many churches, destroying mosques and locking an

estimated 1 million Chinese Muslims

in camps where they are forced to renounce Islam and their cultural traditions.

Despite international condemnation, China claims it upholds freedom of religion and is seeking only to ensure regulations are followed while discouraging religious extremism and violence.
Those participating at the launch of the five-day course included the president of the Chinese Taoist Association, vice-president of the Chinese Islamic Association, chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and president of the Chinese Christian Association.
Confucius was believed to have been born in the 6th century BC in the eastern town of Qufu. He is credited with authoring or editing key texts of statesmanship and social order, particularly the Analects that contain his key aphorisms and teachings.
The sage’s legacy is also invoked in the name of the 
Confucius Institutes

, quasi-academic bodies set up in colleges and other centres of education around the world.

Several US universities have rejected offers to open Confucius Institutes on their campuses or declined to renew contracts over concerns about Chinese government political influence.
Source: SCMP
04/06/2019

Tiananmen Square: What happened in the protests of 1989?

File photo of protestersImage copyright AFP
Image caption By early June 1989, huge numbers had gathered in Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

The events produced one of the most iconic photos of the 20th Century – a lone protester standing in front of a line of army tanks.

What led up to the events?

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes.

The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment.

Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards.

However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness.

Protesters in Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Protesters in Tiananmen Square, 1989

The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control.

In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started.

Those taking part included people who had lived abroad and been exposed to new ideas and higher standards of living.

How did the protests grow?

In spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom.

Protesters were spurred on by the death of a leading politician, Hu Yaobang, who had overseen some of the economic and political changes.

Archive picture of Deng and HuImage copyrigh AFP
Image caption Deng Xiaoping (left) with Hu Yaobang

He had been pushed out of a top position in the party by political opponents two years earlier.

Tens of thousands gathered on the day of Hu’s funeral, in April, calling for greater freedom of speech and less censorship.

In the following weeks, protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, with numbers estimated to be up to one million at their largest.

The square is one of Beijing’s most famous landmarks.

It is near the tomb of Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, and the Great Hall of the People, used for Communist Party meetings.

What was the government’s response?

At first, the government took no direct action against the protesters.

Party officials disagreed on how to respond, some backing concessions, others wanting to take a harder line.

The hardliners won the debate, and in the last two weeks of May, martial law was declared in Beijing.

On 3 to 4 June, troops began to move towards Tiananmen Square, opening fire, crushing and arresting protesters to regain control of the area.

Who was Tank Man?

On 5 June, a man faced down a line of tanks heading away from the square.

He was carrying two shopping bags and was filmed walking to block the tanks from moving past.

"Tank Man" in BeijingImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

He was pulled away by two men.

It’s not known what happened to him but he’s become the defining image of the protests.

How many people died in the protests?

No-one knows for sure how many people were killed.

At the end of June 1989, the Chinese government said 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died.

Other estimates have ranged from hundreds to many thousands.

In 2017, newly released UK documents revealed that a diplomatic cable from then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald, had said that 10,000 had died.

Do people in China know what happened?

Discussion of the events that took place in Tiananmen Square is highly sensitive in China.

View of Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Tiananmen Square now – full of tourists and surveillance cameras

Posts relating to the massacres are regularly removed from the internet, tightly controlled by the government.

So, for a younger generation who didn’t live through the protests, there is little awareness about what happened.

Source: The BBC

05/05/2019

China putting minority Muslims in ‘concentration camps,’ U.S. says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States accused China on Friday of putting well more than a million minority Muslims in “concentration camps,” in some of the strongest U.S. condemnation to date of what it calls Beijing’s mass detention of mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups.

The comments by Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the U.S. Defense Department, are likely to increase tension with Beijing, which is sensitive to international criticism and describes the sites as vocational education training centres aimed at stemming the threat of Islamic extremism.

Former detainees have described to Reuters being tortured during interrogation at the camps, living in crowded cells and being subjected to a brutal daily regimen of party indoctrination that drove some people to suicide.

Some of the sprawling facilities are ringed with razor wire and watch towers.

“The (Chinese) Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” Schriver told a Pentagon briefing during a broader discussion about China’s military, estimating that the number of detained Muslims could be “closer to 3 million citizens.”

When asked by a reporter why he used the term, Schriver said that it was justified “given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens out of a population of about 10 million.””So a very significant portion of the population, (given) what’s happening there, what the goals are of the Chinese government and their own public comments make that a very, I think, appropriate description,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday used the term re-education camps to describe the sites and said Chinese activity was “reminiscent of the 1930s.”
The U.S. government has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, a vast region bordering central Asia that is home to millions of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. China has warned that it would retaliate “in proportion” against any U.S. sanctions.
The governor of Xinjiang in March directly dismissed comparisons to concentration camps, saying they were “the same as boarding schools.”
U.S. officials have said China has made criminal many aspects of religious practice and culture in Xinjiang, including punishment for teaching Muslim texts to children and bans on parents giving their children Uighur names.
Academics and journalists have documented grid-style police checkpoints across Xinjiang and mass DNA collection, and human rights advocates have decried martial law-type conditions there.
Source: Reuters
20/04/2019

Hundreds sign online petition supporting woman suing JD.com CEO in rape case

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Hundreds of people have added their names to an online petition in support of a University of Minnesota student who said she was raped last August by Richard Liu, the chief executive officer of China’s e-commerce retailer JD.com Inc.

The student, Liu Jingyao, from China, filed a civil lawsuit against JD’s CEO in a Minneapolis court on Tuesday, nearly four months after prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against him.

The law suit identified the student for the first time. The two Lius are not related.

Richard Liu, through his lawyers, maintained his innocence throughout the law enforcement investigation, which ended in December. The company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

It was unclear who launched the petition, which carried the hashtag #HereForJingyao, although signatories included Chinese students at foreign universities as well as in China. On Saturday, it was gathering momentum on the social media platform WeChat, with more than 500 names attached.

“To Liu Jingyao: You are not alone. We believe in survivors, we believe in your bravery and honesty, we will always stand with you. We must join hands and march together in the face of the challenge of a culture of blaming the victims of rape,” the petition said.

A Chinese-language translation of the indictment was also circulating online.

Liu Jingyao first accused Richard Liu of rape in August when he was visiting the University of Minnesota to attend a program directed at executives from China.

Liu, 46, who started JD.com as a humble electronics stall and expanded it into an e-commerce company with 2018 net revenues of $67 billion, was arrested on Aug. 31 but released without charge about 17 hours later.

A fledgling #MeToo-style movement in support of women’s rights has been slow to gain wide traction in China, where issues like sexual assault have traditionally been brushed under the carpet.

China’s ruling Communist Party, wary about grassroots organizing, has also in recent months put pressure on activists focused on issues like sexual assault on campuses and workers’ rights.

Source: Reuters

07/03/2019

In sensitive year for China, warnings against ‘erroneous thoughts’

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party is ramping up calls for political loyalty in a year of sensitive anniversaries, warning against “erroneous thoughts” as officials fall over themselves to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping and his philosophy.

This year is marked by some delicate milestones: 30 years since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square; 60 years since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet into exile; and finally, on Oct. 1, 70 years since the founding of Communist China.

Born of turmoil and revolution, the Communist Party came to power in 1949 on the back of decades of civil war in which millions died, and has always been on high alert for “luan”, or “chaos”, and valued stability above all else.

“This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of new China,” Xi told legislators from Inner Mongolia on Tuesday, the opening day of the annual meeting of parliament. “Maintaining sustained, healthy economic development and social stability is a mission that is extremely arduous.”

Xi has tightened the party’s grip on almost every facet of government and life since assuming power in late 2012.

ROOTING OUT DISLOYALTY

The party has increasingly been making rooting out disloyalty and wavering from the party line a disciplinary offence to be enforced by its anti-corruption watchdog, whose role had ostensibly been to go after criminal acts such as bribery and lesser bureaucratic transgressions.

The graft buster said last month it would “uncover political deviation” in its political inspections this year of provincial governments and ministries.

Top graft buster Zhao Leji, in a January speech to the corruption watchdog, a full transcript of which the party released late February, used the word “loyalty” eight times.

“Set an example with your loyalty to the party,” Zhao said.

China has persistently denied its war on corruption is about political manoeuvring or Xi taking down his enemies. Xi told an audience in Seattle in 2015 that the anti-graft fight was no “House of Cards”-style power play, in a reference to the Netflix U.S. political drama.

The deeper fear for the party is some sort of unrest or a domestic or even international event fomenting a crisis that could end its rule.

Xi told officials in January they need to be on high alert for “black swan” events..

That same month the top law-enforcement official said China’s police must focus on withstanding “colour revolutions”, or popular uprisings, and treat the defence of China’s political system as central to their work.

The party has meanwhile shown no interest in political reform, and has been doubling down on the merits of the Communist Party, including this month rolling out English-language propaganda videos on state media-run Twitter accounts to laud “Chinese democracy”. Twitter remains blocked in China.

The official state news agency Xinhua said in an English-language commentary on Sunday that China was determined to stick to its political model and rejected Western-style democracy.
“The country began to learn about democracy a century ago, but soon found Western politics did not work here. Decades of turmoil and civil war followed,” it said.
Source: Reuters
18/01/2019

Zhao Ziyang: A reformer China’s Communist Party wants to forget

Picture dated 17 October 1980 in Beijing of Zhao Ziyang,Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

In a small, central Beijing courtyard, family and friends are gathering to pay tribute to Zhao Ziyang – the most powerful man in China to oppose the decision to send tanks into Tiananmen Square nearly 30 years ago.

He was subsequently erased from Chinese history for what party officials deemed his “serious mistakes” that day.

To reach his traditional courtyard home, mourners and journalists alike must run a gauntlet through a twisted alleyway, with groups of police and plain-clothed guards on every corner, waiting to interrogate and prevent would-be visitors.

Today, on a cold, January day, on the anniversary of Zhao’s death from a stroke in 2005, numerous police vehicles flank every entrance. Parked outside the gate is an unmarked security car; the occupants monitoring arrivals and muttering into radios.

“What a miracle you all showed up here,” Zhao’s daughter, Wang Yannan, tells the small group of us who made it inside the courtyard.

Wang Yannan, the daughter of former leader Zhao Ziyang
Image captionWang Yannan hopes her father may one day be rehabilitated

China’s Communist Party has spent nearly 30 years trying to erase the events of 4 June 1989 from history and young people here have little knowledge or understanding of what happened that day. The story of Zhao Ziyang is proof those efforts still continue: the man who was the highest ranking Party official in the country at the time of those momentous events is now expunged from the record and, even in death, still regarded as a threat.

Every year, the family says, the number of people who come to pay their respects diminishes slightly. Some are stopped from entering when they arrive or – as Zhao Ziyang was for 16 years – prevented from travelling around the city.

“It’s been like this for many years. What else can we do about it?” Zhao’s son, Zhao Er’jun, is resigned to the hassle.

“Sometimes we go out and help people get in. This man used to be a secretary of my father’s – he was dragged into a dispute with the police outside. Even he was nearly prevented from coming in.”

Mourners pay their respects in front of Zhao Ziyang’s tablet on the 14th anniversary of his death on Jan 17, 2019
Image captionSupporters pay their respects to Zhao Ziyang on the anniversary of his death

“Let’s talk in the room,” Er’jun adds, pointing to a tall building next to the courtyard. “There are face-recognition cameras set up over there, visitors’ faces and identities will be recorded. You got in this time, the next time it may be harder.”

A trickle of people make their way into Zhao’s study, where his photograph, documents and possessions are displayed, alongside photographs of his late wife. It speaks of a loving family, proud of his achievements – Chinese premier, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and, before his purge, credited with driving crucial economic reform in China.

It’s already stuffed with flowers and burning incense. More flowers are being placed outside the door.

Most visitors tell us that they are “from his home town”. It might not be true in all cases, but it seems that you’re more likely to get past the guards by saying it. And they are here to keep not just his memory, but his principles alive.

Zhang Baolin, a former journalist, covered the years when Zhao brought wealth to much of China – but also drew criticism for corruption – and then defied his party by defending the student protests in Tiananmen.

He says: “Zhao Ziyang played such a significant role in opening up and reform. Huge progress was made within his time. So I think, to an old man like Zhao who has passed away so many years ago, we should pay our respects. [If his name] is missing in the commemoration of opening-up and reform, we think it’s very unfair.”

Mourners bow to the photographs of former leader Zhao Ziyang and his late wife Liang Boqi
Image captionSupporters prayed among flowers filling Zhao’s study

Zhao’s name is not only missing in Chinese commemorations, but – like nearly everything connected with the events in Tiananmen – from Chinese history books and virtually all official publications since 1989, when he was ousted from the Party. But those in the courtyard hope that won’t always be the case.

One visitor says: “I believe one day Zhao’s reputation will be rehabilitated, because history won’t be distorted for long. One day people will find out the truth. Yes, it’s not included in history textbooks. But in my home we talk about it all the time – I don’t want the next generation to forget.”

Zhao’s daughter Wang Yannan sighs, only cautiously optimistic that one day she might see the political rehabilitation of her father’s legacy.

“Yes, confidence is here. So is the hope. But reality is another thing.”

Zhao went to Tiananmen Square in 1989, knowing that Party hardliners were gaining the upper hand, and implored the students to leave; to save themselves and their future lives; to negotiate with the Party.

“We are already old, we do not matter any more,” he told them.

But nearly 30 years later, remembering Zhao – and his principles – matters more than ever to some.

Visitors taking a group photo in front of the study of Zhao Ziyang
Image captionMost of the people who remember Zhao were alive in 1989 – few young people know of him
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