Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Bao Pu Interview Part I: Zhao Ziyang’s tapes tell his side of the story

After a promising political career that saw him climb the ladder of power, Chinese Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang was ousted in May 1989 for sympathizing with the student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Placed under house arrest, his name became taboo in China. Four years after his death, a book compiled from 30 hours of recordings he secretly taped during the final years of his life was published. Bao Pu, son of Zhao’s longtime aide Bao Tong and one of the main people behind ‘Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang,’ sat down with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Huang Tai-lin in Taipei on Friday to talk about the book and the Tiananmen Square Massacre

Bao Pu, one of the editors of Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, shows the book during an interview in Hong Kong on May 15. His father, Bao Tong, was former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang’s top aide.

PHOTO: AP

Taipei Times: How did you become aware of the existence of the tapes in the first place?

Bao Pu (鮑樸): Shortly after Zhao Ziyang’s (趙紫陽) death in January 2005, in the mourning process, people were prone to talk about his legacy. To our surprise, we learned this set of tapes existed. The first person who actually came forward was Zhao’s close friend and one of the persons who initiated the recording process. His name was Xiao Hongda (蕭洪達), who was the deputy director of the central disciplinary commission. He and Yao Xihua (姚錫華), former chief of the Guang Ming Daily, and Du Daozheng (杜導正), former director of the General Administration of Press and Publications, basically had in their possession different portions of the tapes. We got involved in collecting the tapes. Of course, the cooperation had to remain secret and the process took as long as two-and-a-half years.

TT: So there was no doubt that the tapes were genuine?

Bao: There was no doubt. First of all, the source of the tapes. Two, we have access to all these people who worked closely with him, including my father [Bao Tong, 鮑彤]. They have never in their minds doubted this was not Zhao’s voice. Thirdly, Zhao was a public figure and his voice was already in the public domain, some of the recordings, particularly the one when he was speaking to the students in Tiananmen Square on May 19 [1989], was widely distributed and that was [spoken] live. We also released auto clips [of the tapes] and so far no one has come forward to challenge their authenticity.

TT: Did you have any difficulties while working on the publication?

Bao: The only difficulty was that communication was slow. We were limited to a certain way of communication, you know. For example, we could not pick up the phone and call, could not e-mail. In today’s world, if you write off electronic communication, you really do not have much choice.

TT: You mentioned before that you were followed.

Bao: Right. Less than two weeks before the news broke [about the release of the English edition in May] … some of the English press [in the US] were given an advance copy that they handed to experts for advance review and they were planning a big news event. It was during that process, I think, that the [Chinese] authorities were alerted and they knew I was involved because my name was on the cover. I suspected it was the advance news planning that triggered the response from the authorities. They started following me. I must emphasize that, of course, I don’t have direct evidence and these people have never identified themselves. But from my past experience, because when I am in Beijing I am followed, I know. I don’t think that incident was particularly unusual … [but] I almost expected it. I anticipated there would be whole lot worse, so I am sort of surprised. It seems they didn’t react as quickly or as forcibly as I anticipated.

I think these tapes have their own strength, their own rights and their own power. It is very, very close to established facts. Even if they [the authorities] have all the power in the world, they cannot refute what happened, this version of the truth, and I think that’s really why so far we haven’t seen any direct attack on this publication.

TT: The Tiananmen Massacre is considered taboo in China. Will people in China have access to this book, or is it banned as in the case of the publication two years ago of Zong Fengming’s (宗鳳鳴) book “Zhao Ziyang: Captive Conversations” (趙紫陽軟禁中的談話)?

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