Zhao hailed for leading reforms

OUSTED Communist Party chief Mr Zhao Ziyang represented the ''Chinese people's will to reform'', according to Mr Xiao Yang, the newly elected governor of Sichuan province.

The 63-year-old reformist said in an interview with a left-wing newspaper that although Mr Zhao had fallen from grace, his contributions to China's reform should not be forgotten.

Mr Xiao said Mr Zhao, who was purged almost four years ago for sympathising with the pro-democracy students, deserved credit for his contributions.

''Comrade Zhao Ziyang has accomplished a great deal in reform and has done much work. What he achieved could not be erased,'' he said.

''And when we say a certain person has made a contribution or has achieved something, it is only meaningful when what he's done represented the will of the people,'' Mr Xiao, a former protege of Mr Zhao, was quoted as saying by Hongkong's Wen Wei Po.

Although Mr Zhao was no longer in power, his contribution still existed.

Mr Xiao's remarks were considered unusual because, since Mr Zhao's dismissal, Chinese leaders have shied away from commenting on the former general secretary.

The report hinted that Mr Xiao might have been instrumental in protecting his former mentor from a wave of criticism in Sichuan soon after his removal.