Li Peng's diary goes on sale in Los Angeles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am

Former premier Li Peng's controversial diary of the June 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, the publication in Hong Kong of which was cancelled at the last minute, has hit the shelves of bookshops in Los Angeles.

Zheng Cunzhu, a student leader during the 1989 pro-democracy movement who now lives in the United States, said he had funded the publication but had not been approached about any copyright problems - which a Hong Kong publisher cited as the reason for calling off the diary's publication this week.

'So far, neither Li Peng himself nor his lawyers have raised questions on the copyright issue,' Zheng said. 'If he admits he owns the copyright of the diary and files a lawsuit, my publishing house is willing to take full legal responsibility.

'And if Li does raise any copyright complaint, then it proves that this diary was really written by him. That's not a bad thing.'

Zheng, who emigrated to Los Angeles in 2006, said he registered his West Point Publishing House soon after he downloaded a copy from a link referred to him by a mainland contact on June 5.

'I got a link to download the diary and I printed it out right away, because I knew the link would be erased sooner or later,' Zheng said.

The photocopied version of the book, entitled The Critical Moment and subtitled Li Peng Diaries, was made available on the internet immediately after the 21st anniversary of the June 4 crackdown. It is not clear who first uploaded the book.

Aware of plans by Hong Kong's New Century Press to release the diary on Tuesday, Zheng went ahead with preparations for its publication in California on Saturday. It is not known if the US version is based on the same manuscript.

'I had a hunch that the book wouldn't be able to hit the bookshelves in Hong Kong. It's part of China after all,' Zheng said.

The Hong Kong publisher, run by Bao Pu, the son of Bao Tong, the highest-ranking official to be jailed over the crackdown and a senior adviser to the late party general secretary Zhao Ziyang, announced on Saturday that the diary's publication in Hong Kong had been cancelled owing to copyright issues.

Bao said he had been approached by mainland parties who had provided him with copyright information.

The authenticity of the diary has never been verified by Li. But Bao said months of research showed it was unlikely the manuscript was a fake. He declined to comment on the diary's publication in the US.

The diary details decision making in the inner circle of the Communist Party leadership from April 15 to June 24, 1989.

Zheng said 1,000 copies of the first edition had been printed in simplified Chinese characters. The book, priced at US$25, is available in Los Angeles bookshops catering to Chinese readers and on the internet.

'It things go well, I am planning to release another edition in traditional Chinese characters and hope it can be sold in Hong Kong and Taiwan,' Zheng said.

He said half the profit from the book would be donated to those who were injured in the crackdown, when troops were sent in to end a long- running pro-democracy protest by students in central Beijing. The authorities put the death toll at 241, but others say thousands died.

Zheng was a pro-democracy student leader in his home province of Anhui in 1989 and went on to run a factory. Since moving to the US, he has become an active member of the China Democracy Party.