Son of late Communist Party chief warns China against slipping back to Mao era ideology

Son of liberal former Communist Party chief warns against reversing his father’s direction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 3:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 2:36pm

Twenty-six years after the death of liberal Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, his son says he should be remembered for having tried to bring China onto the path of democracy and rule of law - and warns against slipping back to Mao-era ideology.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of today's anniversary of the former leader's death, Hu Dehua said his father's legacies included freeing people from the torment of the Cultural Revolution and steering China into an era of reform.

"He ended a disaster like the Cultural Revolution, put a stop to class struggles, focused on building the country and embarked on democracy and the rule of law so people would no longer be incriminated for what they said," Hu Dehua said. "So today, we shouldn't go backwards."

Since taking power, President Xi Jinping has alarmed liberals by invoking many Mao-era slogans and practices, such as the "rectification" anti-graft campaign and a "mass line" ideology movement. He has also denounced Western democratic ideals and escalated a crackdown on government critics. Xi has also said "one should not use post-reform history to negate the pre-reform years" - which many see as an indication of his endorsement of Maoist ideology.

Hu Yaobang is most remembered for his liberal thinking, which freed China from the strictures of Maoist dogma but led to his removal from the top post by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in January 1987.

Hu Dehua said he was "grateful" that the party would commemorate the centenary of his father's birth this November, but said this did not amount to a reversal of the official verdict in 1987 that the liberal leader had made "grave mistakes".

"The commemoration and the verdict on him are not the same thing," his son said. "He was a party chief who was toppled for having made grave mistakes … On this issue, they haven't said those party documents in 1987 [which condemned him] have been 8revoked."

Hu Yaobang was purged for tolerating "bourgeois liberalisation" and was blamed for being too lenient with student protests in 1986 which called for democracy and freedoms.

Hu Yaobang died on April 15, 1989, from a heart attack. Hundreds of thousands turned out on the streets and the mourning later transformed into the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. Hu's name, linked to the protests which ended in the June 4 crackdown, has scarcely been mentioned in state media for 26 years.

The Communist Party marked the 90th anniversary of Hu's birth in 2005 with a low-key, closed-door ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. It was attended by then-premier Wen Jiabao and vice-president Zeng Qinghong , but then-president Hu Jintao was absent. Hu Dehua was unsure who would attend this year.

Political commentator Ching Cheong said the party's commemoration of Hu Yaobang without a formal rehabilitation of his name showed it was trying to avoid the June 4 subject.

He said the political significance of Hu lay in his efforts to eradicate Maoist dogma but Xi's revival of Maoism ran contrary to that spirit.

"The thing to watch for is whether Xi Jinping will attend the ceremony," Ching said.