HK decides rest of world can wait, but not us

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong was alone in deciding to break the worldwide embargo and sell Zhao Ziyang's memoirs, Prisoner of the State, before its scheduled release date on Tuesday, the book's translator said.

May 19 was chosen because it was on that day 20 years ago that Zhao made his final public appearance before the state placed him under house arrest. He would die 15 years later, in 2005.

Bao Pu said Hong Kong bookstores had a habit of breaking embargoes and being the first to put books on shelves.

The South China Morning Post and Ming Pao obtained the book from Dymocks, and Apple Daily bought a copy from a Page One outlet in Hong Kong.

The 160,000-character Chinese version of the memoirs will go on sale later this month. It is titled Journey of the Reforms.

'The Chinese version and the English one are slightly different,' Mr Bao said. 'The Chinese one is closer to the original work [by Zhao], while the English version focuses on the movement leading to the bloody June 4 crackdown.

'Neither version is written in the chronological order of the incidents.'

The book is based on audio recordings Zhao made about his time as the Communist Party general secretary. He was deposed for siding with the pro-democracy protesters in 1989; he spoke to the students before leaders declared martial law.

In the speech, he told the students to stop their hunger strike and express their opinions through dialogue with the government. By stopping the strike, the students would be able to continue with their lives and witness the reforms.

The speech touched students' hearts, though many persisted in demonstrating in Tiananmen Square.

Despite his popularity at the time, many younger people today do not know who he was. When asked about the memoir, one employee at a Quarry Bay bookshop replied: 'Who's Zhao Ziyang?'