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Secret paper shows China 'rift' over Tiananmen

The latest document adds to debate over splits in the Chinese leadership over the Tiananmen Square protests  

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'Harsh tone'

'Seeking compromise'

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- A document written by a close aide to China's disgraced communist party chief Zhao Ziyang and obtained by CNN has shed new light on the events leading up to the bloody crackdown on student protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

The statement was written by Zhao's political secretary, Bao Tong in September, 1989.

The document did not come from Bao himself, though he confirmed its authenticity to CNN.

CNN's Mike Chinoy describes the history of the Tiananmen in context with the secret document (April 22)

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Visions of China

The apparent "confession" was written for an investigation committee looking into Bao's case and details the extent to which liberals like Bao and Zhao tried to persuade Deng Xiaoping and other hardliners not to use troops against the students.

It begins with events surrounding the early days of the protests when students first hit the streets after the death of the popular former party general secretary Hu Yaobang on April 15.

The mass action scared China's paramount leader, and Deng authorized the official People's Daily to run an editorial 11 days later, which called the students' actions "anti-government" and "counter-revolutionary."

It ran while Zhao was on a visit to North Korea. Bao informed Zhao upon the latter's return on April 30, that the editorial might only agitate the student demonstrators.

'Harsh tone'

"The editorial was written in a very harsh tone," Bao told Zhao. "It did not adequately present reasons and it lacked analysis."

According to Bao's statement, Zhao had agreed with his assessment - and sought to make amends.

In his May 4 speech to the Asian Development Bank meeting in Beijing, which was drafted by Bao, Zhao indicated Beijing appreciated the patriotic feelings of the students.

On May 12, as the students were getting ready to start a hunger strike, Bao urged the director of the People's Daily to run a story that might cool the demonstrators' anger.

The story, which appeared a day later, said the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress would soon hold a meeting to address the students' concerns such as steps to fight corruption and to promote political reform.

But the document says the students' fates were sealed at a Politburo Standing Committee meeting held in Deng's home on May 17.

'Seeking compromise'

Zhao had failed to persuade Deng and his colleagues on the Standing Committee to seek a compromise with the students.

He then asked Bao to draft a resignation letter for him the same day - and from that point, bloodshed became a certainty.

While state president Yang Shangkun rejected Zhao's resignation letter, saying his stepping down would further inflame the students, it was clear that Zhao would soon lose his freedom.

This was Bao's account of his feelings about Zhao's resignation: "I only felt respect for Comrade Ziyang, for he had been honest and straightforward, had not concealed his beliefs, and had given no consideration to his personal loss or gain."

The last thing that Bao did for Zhao was to draft a speech for him on May 24, that would be used when the party chief defended himself at a forthcoming meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Bao's confession shows the agony and helplessness of a senior cadre who felt the world collapsing around him - and yet failing to turn the tide of history.

Bao made clear he did not have personal links with the students. Nor was it true, he said, that he and Zhao were the heads of an anti-party cabal.

However, Bao, who was sentenced to seven years in jail, hinted that he could see what would befall him partly because he had run afoul of hardliner Li.

Li had accused Bao of leaking state secrets, and had sought more than once to prevent him from sitting in on Politburo meetings.

In the statement, the only "mistake" Bao admitted to was the "severe error of not siding with the party central authorities."

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Tiananmen part but not all of modern-day China's legacy
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The lingering legacy of Tiananmen Square
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China's dissidents: Division in the ranks
June 3, 1999
Tiananmen not all of modern-day China's legacy
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Risky business in China: speaking out for human rights
June 1997
Some changes evident in China 7 years after Tiananmen massacre
June 1996

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