China's current leadership should learn from the magnanimity of the purged Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief Zhao Ziyang (
Chen made the appeal after Zhao, who was ousted in 1989 for opposing an army crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, died in a Beijing hospital at the age of 85.
Chen said most Chinese people have given positive recognition to Zhao's contributions during his tenure as premier and CCP general secretary, particularly for his assisting the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (
Noting that Zhao's demonstration of understanding and sympathy for pro-democracy students was impressive, Chen said China's current leaders should learn from Zhao's lenience and magnanimity and step up pluralistic democratic reform.
Lack of Progress
Despite its fast economic growth over the past 15 years, Chen said, China has failed to make similar progress in the political field.
"China has not only failed to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, but has even suppressed religious freedom and demonstrated a poor human rights record, " Chen said.
Zhao has remained a politically sensitive figure up to the present because his attitude toward the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy demonstrations differed from those of some other Chinese leaders.
Against this backdrop, Chen said, Zhao's death could spark a groundswell of protest and unrest in China over how to define Zhao's historical status.
"We'll keep a close watch for any political impact in China from Zhao's death," Chen said.
Meanwhile, he urged Beijing to squarely face up to the Tiananmen crackdown and clear the name of persecuted demonstrators.
Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (
A human rights society in Hong Kong speculated yesterday that Beijing will tighten security controls in the next few days out of concerns that Zhao's death could spark widespread demonstrations by students and supporters similar to those that followed the death of former CCP chief Hu Yaobang (
Hu was removed from his post in 1987 for allowing pro-democracy student unrest, and was replaced by Zhao.