Zhao letter reveals freedom demand

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2006, 12:00am

Disgraced party boss saw arrest as 'brutal trampling' of system

A collection of commemorative essays and poems mourning late Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang to be published in Hong Kong this weekend includes a letter by the disgraced chief to party leaders demanding his freedom.

The collection is a sequel to Zhao Lives: A Collection of Commemorative Essays and Poems, which appeared last year, and its publication is timed to coincide with the 17th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square military crackdown on Sunday.

In the letter, dated October 13, 1997, and addressed to all seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhao describes his house arrest as a 'brutal trampling of the socialist legal system'.

Zhao, ousted in 1989 for sympathising with pro-democracy student demonstrators, was placed under house arrest for 15 years until his death in January last year. Despite calls from Zhao, his family and supporters, the Communist Party leadership has refused to reassess the student-led pro-democracy movement, repeating that a 'conclusion' has been reached and there is no need to reopen old wounds.

The previously unpublished letter follows another Zhao sent to party leaders attending the 15th Communist Party Congress a month earlier, in September 1997. In that letter, Zhao urged the leadership to seize the opportunity to rehabilitate the 1989 movement, which was officially described as a 'political upheaval' and 'rebellion'.

In the October letter, Zhao complained that after sending the earlier letter he was denied the freedom to meet visitors or leave his house.

'Since June 1989, I have been held under illegal house arrest, whether it be semi-house arrest or full house arrest, for eight years.

'I don't know how much longer I will be able to endure such loss of personal freedom. This is a big harm to an 80-year-old man, both physically and psychologically.'

The latest book, a tribute to Zhao, also contains photographs of his funeral last January and poems by former aides including Bao Tong .

Long-time associate Zong Fengming , who was allowed to meet Zhao from 1999 to 2004 and was not involved in the latest book, said Zhao had informed him about the October letter, but he had not read it. 'I have not seen this letter written by Zhao in October 1997 but he has told me its content,' Mr Zong said.

'At the time, he told me: 'The way they treated me - that I cannot go out or meet visitors - is both a violation of the party charter and the constitution'. The way he [Zhao] said that to me gives me the impression that he was confident that he will be given a fair verdict in the future when people look back at June 4.'

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan