Ex-premier praised at a sensitive time
Josephine Ma in Beijing
An outspoken magazine run by retired officials has published a rare article by a former aide of ex-premier Zhao Ziyang, praising Zhao at a sensitive time - the run-up to this autumn's 17th party congress.
In an article titled 'The memory in the compound of the state council', carried in this month's issue of Yanhuangchunqiu, former vice-premier Tian Jiyuan heaps praise on the modesty and simplicity of the State Council's working style under Zhao's leadership in the 1980s.
It is the first positive article about Zhao carried in a mainland publication since his downfall after the 1989 Tiananmen student democracy movement.
The magazine also ran a small photo showing Mr Tian accompanying Zhao on an inspection to Henan province in 1985 - also a mainland first since Zhao's downfall - although Zhao's name does not appear in the caption.
Mr Tian recalled that Zhao had once rejected a suggestion by State Council secretaries that the table in the conference room be replaced with a 'trendier', oval-shaped table because he did not want to squander public funds. 'He [Zhao] strictly requested cadres to live a simple and hard lifestyle, and he himself set the example first,' Mr Tian wrote.
'During his tenure, he never bought anything expensive for his home and office. He wanted everything simple and not wasting a cent.'
He said he had accompanied 'State Council key leaders', an obvious reference to Zhao, on a number of inspection tours.
'We sat in the same van with the staff that accompanied us and we chatted along the way,' he wrote. 'We often stopped on our way and visited the people at their homes, construction sites or factories to obtain first-hand information.
'Wherever we went, we did not seal off the road or ask the police to clear the way. We did not put on shows directed by local authorities.'
The nostalgic article also compared the old days with the rampant corruption in government today.
'Nobody ever came to me and asked me to give them an official post. I have promoted many cadres in many departments and nobody ever came to treat me to a meal or give me presents or red packets,' Mr Tian wrote. 'Until now, I have not heard of any official, promoted at that time, being sacked for corruption.'
The magazine is backed by liberal-thinking elders such as Du Runsheng Yu Guangyuan and Li Rui.