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World - Asia/Pacific

Former Community Party official: Last decade 'wasted'

Who's who
The government
The Activists: Division in the ranks
Chai Ling, Li Lu, Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi
Families still mourn

Interactive Gallery:
A look back

Modern China
Rural democracy
Military might

Interview transcripts
a crackdown defender
a victim's mother
former Communist Party official
Premier Zhu Rongji

From TIME Asia
We remember
Where are they now?
Memories that won't fade

Message Board
Tiananmen Square anniversary

Bao Tong, former secretary to the Communist Party Central Committee, was arrested and sentenced in 1989 and served 7 years in prison; he now lives under tight police surveillance. (Note: This interview with CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon was conducted earlier this spring and held for release at Bao's request.)

REBECCA MACKINNON: Now that ten years have passed since June 4, 1989, what are your feelings?

BAO TONG: I believe we have wasted the past ten years. We have gone backwards, so the damage is equal to more

BAO: With any incident like this, some people will want to remember it forever, and others will want to forget it as quickly as possible. This is very natural. If there are some people who want to forget this as soon as possible, I guess they have their reasons. But thats not how I see it. I believe this incident cannot be forgotten because it has very grave and bitter implications for China's history. It is grave because our Chinese people suffered such an enormous disaster. I believe that since the beginning of our history nobody else has so brazenly dared to send its own troops to shoot at its own people, and to use weapons like tanks. They used several hundred thousand troops to put down several hundred thousand defenseless students. This is something which human history cannot forget. Any human being ought to remember this lesson. I think the Chinese people will remember this lesson. And I believe that our foreign friends will not forget this lesson either.

Some people believe that this kind of incident can be forgotten, can be diluted or erased as if it never happened. I don't believe so. I think the history of June 4 has already been carved in people's hearts. It has been engraved in the people's hearts as a history written in blood. This cannot be erased.

Any humane person cannot forget this. I have an example. Taiwan has the February 28 Incident, which happened in 1949. Fifty-two years have already passed, 53 years. People wanted to keep a lid on it for almost 50 years, but eventually the lid had to come off. The sun must eventually come out. The clouds and fog must eventually be dispersed. I have faith in this. On the day that the clouds and fog are dispersed, the sun will come out, and the truth will be clear. At that time, people will see the reality of the situation, and will be able to learn from what happened.

A China which is able to learn is a progressive China. A China which is able to learn from the past will be a responsible, civilized member of the international community. I believe the whole world will rejoice on that day.

MACKINNON: Why do you think that the present government won't talk about what happened?

BAO: I don't understand this either. The Chinese have a saying: you can think about something a hundred times and not reach an answer. I think that if it were me I would use the opposite method. If it were me I would admit that I made a mistake. I would say, let's start over again. That way our whole nation can come to understand one another and work together towards a democratic society. That is what I would do. That is the only way we can progress. That is the only way we can discard the burdens of our past. I don't think there would be any difficulty in doing this right now.

Everybody is clear that the person responsible for what happened was Mr. Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Deng has now passed away. He is now a historical figure. What he did should be treated as history. It should not remain entangled with the present, preventing us from making progress. I think certain people say it is their goal to be the successors of Deng Xiaoping's work. I hope that these people can take his work further, rather than take it backward. How can we move forward? We must correct all of Deng Xiaoping's mistakes. This is the only way to truly uphold Deng Xiaoping's vision. This is what it truly means to carry on Deng Xiaoping's work. Only when they acknowledge his mistakes and correct his mistakes can they stand taller than Deng Xiaoping. Otherwise they have no right to call themselves Deng Xiaoping's successors. They can only call themselves the successors of Deng Xiaoping's mistakes.

Not only have they not corrected his mistakes, but they haven't expanded the good things he did. This is my view. So I think this is a very straightforward problem. Its not difficult. If you want to call yourself a student of Deng Xiaoping, a successor of Deng Xiaoping, then you must correct Deng Xiaoping's mistakes. Take Deng himself. He called himself Mao Zedong's successor. He said: Mao was the first generation, I am the second generation. On what basis did he call himself the second generation? He had to correct Mao's mistakes in order to be his successor. Mao Zedong's biggest mistake was the Cultural Revolution. When Deng rehabilitated the victims of the Cultural Revolution, he stirred the hearts of the entire nation. It was because he corrected Mao's mistakes that he was able to become Mao's successor, and that the entire country put so much faith in him. The students of Deng Xiaoping should learn from him in this way, because he didn't try to obscure the truth by covering up Mao's mistakes. They should study how he corrected and acknowledged Mao's mistakes, and completely rejected the Cultural Revolution. I think this is the only correct approach they can take.

MACKINNON: Do you think that the present leaders are afraid that as soon as they start discussing what happened, some people may take to the streets, may think that they can criticize the Communist Party?

BAO: This is what I think. After Deng Xiaoping rejected the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese people said: "Xiaoping, you're great." They didn't run around creating chaos. The Chinese people are rational. If today's leaders could only correct Deng Xiaoping's mistakes, then I think that people would say, "third generation of leaders, you're great."

The Chinese people are very peace-loving. They won't go to extremes. This is clear. If they can resolve the problem of June 4, I believe the people will thank them. Itis not true that they won't survive. I think there aren't any obstacles to doing this. The reason is very simple. Because in the leadership today -- with the exception of one person -- none of today's leaders is responsible for what happened then. At the time none of them held positions of authority within the central leadership. None of them was in the Politburo. So they shouldn't have to bear this burden. The people understand this very clearly. They weren't responsible for it then, so now if they can unburden themselves of this responsibility, how will the people feel? They'll be happy, welcoming, approving, supportive. It will build trust. They will not regret it, and certainly the people won't regret it.

MACKINNON: Was the one person you referred to Li Peng?

BAO: I think you understand me very well and you don't need to ask me that question.

In fact, it is him. If today he could acknowledge his mistake, I believe the people would be happy. They would be tolerant of him, because the main responsibility lies with Deng, not with other people. Not with that person I just said.

MACKINNON: At that time ten years ago, what would have been the best way to deal with the situation peacefully?

BAO: Both sides should have compromised. There should have been mutual compromise. Deng Xiaoping should have stepped back from his original position. At first he made a bad decision. He said "this is turmoil, this is counter-revolution." He should have stepped back from this statement. Originally the students said they would go on hunger strike. They should have said, "Okay, we won't go on hunger-strike.". If this had happened, if the students had agreed to leave the square, and if the government had announced that its editorial of April 26 was wrong, then the students could have said, "We won't adopt more extreme measures." Through mutual understanding and mutual compromise they could have reached an agreement. Together they could have examined how to proceed with China's reforms, how to reform China's political system, how to fight bribery and corruption, how China can carry out political reform while at the same time improve its economic reforms. Or in other words, how to proceed with economic reforms while at the same time supporting political reforms. If that had happened, I believe that China today, when it comes to democratic progress, that is the building of a democratic government, China would not be behind the rest of Asia. I hope that it will be able to rise to the front, and I hope that some day we can reach the same level as the West.

MACKINNON: But wasnt there a problem with that at the time? If the Communist Party acknowledged the legitimacy of groups from outside the Party and negotiated with them, and if their suggestions were valued as highly as those of the Party, then wouldnt there no longer be any justification for a one-party state? Wouldnt the Party have lost its legitimacy and power?

BAO: The Communist Party should uphold the truth rather than uphold power. If it had done that, China's Communist Party would be much closer to the communism that Marx originally envisioned. I don't think Marx could ever have imagined that a communist party would become what it has today. He would have been horrified. I think that Marxism is a very flexible ideology. The Communist Party can also be a flexible organization. It has a large capacity. It can combine with democracy, combine with humanitarianism, and combine with peace. But unfortunately it can also combine with dictatorship, and with authoritarianism. So this is a very complicated problem. I think even Mao Zedong realized this. At the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution Mao said, "Maybe after I die some people will use certain statements of mine to oppose other statements I made, and vice versa." Mao himself understood this. I think Deng also understood this, and knew that the Communist Party is a very flexible concept; its not a concept that is set in stone. People have said that Marxism is a work-in-progress, and the Communist Party ought to change with the times. Its not that he didn't understand this logic.

There is a scholar named Zhou Dang. He said that China should move from "totalitarianism" to "totalism". And then move from "totalism" to democracy. I think that if we can successfully make this transition, then the whole world will see that the Chinese Communist Party is at the forefront of all other communist parties in democratic development. What's wrong with that? I can't see what's wrong with that.

A lot of people have forgotten that the Chinese Communist Party was founded on the idea of democracy. I can honestly tell you that fifty years ago if the Communist Party had not practiced democracy, I, Bao Tong, would not have joined the Communist Party. At the time I joined the Communist Party because I believed it was democratic. I remember reading an article by a pro- democratic scholar named Huang Yanpei. He wrote an article called "return to Yanan". During the Sino-Japanese war Huang Yanpei went as a representative of the People's Consultative Conference to Yanan, where he met Mao Zedong and asked him: "If you gain power, will you become corrupt?" Mao Zedong said "No." Huang Yanpei said, "Throughout Chinese history all progressive leaders became corrupt in the end. This is the trend." Mao Zedong said: "We have found a new way." Remember, he said "new way." "This way," he said, "is democracy." If Mao Zedong hadn't swallowed his words, if he had really implemented democracy and combined democracy with communism, then we really could have called Mao the 20th-century Marx. He would have surpassed Lenin and Stalin. But unfortunately after 1949 Mao Zedong forgot what he told Huang Yanpei. So I believe that in 1989, if Deng Xiaoping had remembered what Mao said, and if he had corrected Mao Zedong's mistakes and picked up what Mao had forgotten, then Deng Xiaoping would have surpassed Mao Zedong. Deng Xiaoping didn't do it. But I think its still not too late for today's leaders to do that. I hope they will do it. I hope they will do it well, and do it better than Zhao Ziyang.

MACKINNON: Remembering the events of ten years ago and everything that you did, do you have any regrets?

BAO: I regret that I wasn't any use. I didn't play the role I should have played. So of course I regret it.

MACKINNON: If you could do everything over again, what would you do?

BAO: If I could start over again, it wouldn't have been from 1989. It should have started in 1982 or 1984. By 1989 it was too late.


BAO: Because without political reforms, there is no way that the economic reforms could have achieved the desired results. I thought I understood it then, but looking back I realized I didn't understand. Not even Zhao Ziyang understood this at the time. None of us understood it. We thought that as long as we resolved the problem of giving all Chinese people enough to eat, we had already done them a very good thing, and the other problems could be put off until later. This is what we thought. It was very naive. Later we realized this was wrong. Because the Chinese people not only need improvements in their material lives, but they also want to have better spiritual lives. They want more freedom, they want freedom of speech, they want to be able to participate in all kinds of activities without restriction. Not only do they want freedom from deprivation, but to borrow Roosevelt's words, they also want freedom from fear. At the time we did not understand this. We only realized it later, and I think it is becoming increasingly clear. So the biggest mistake of 1989 was that before then, we did not do anything about political reform.

Now we've reached another critical point. Now the economic reforms are moving another step forward. If the economic reforms are not accompanied by political reforms, then the economic reforms will have to be forced forward single-handedly by a small group of people. Single handedly carrying out economic reforms cannot be successful. Whoever is responsible for doing it single-handedly can only create another tragedy. If they do a bad job, then its because these people did a bad job. If they mess up, its because these people messed up.

So what do you do? There's a solution. Democracy. Everybody works on the reform together. Not a small group of people single-handedly. You have the majority of people working together to figure out the best way to carry out reform. How should we go about it, what problems are we likely to encounter, what kind of preparations should we make in the event of these problems? Then we can stabilize and consolidate. Not only can we avoid danger, but we can also develop more successfully. That's how it should be. But I don't want to talk about this too much because the conditions right now are not ripe. This is just a theoretical discussion.

MACKINNON: So you think its irrelevant to discuss democracy now?

BAO: Its impossible to discuss these questions further because we can't even discuss the most basic issue, such as whether June 4 was right or wrong. What is there to discuss? It's as if we haven't yet finished first grade and we skip ahead to second and third grade.

MACKINNON: So you're saying that in order for there to be progress, the events of ten years ago must be discussed and a solution must be found, otherwise...

BAO: We can't get around it. Some people think they can go around it and move forward but I think we can't get around it. Since we haven't resolved this problem of ten years ago we can't resolve even the most basic problems today. For instance, implementing the constitution. If you try to exercise the most basic freedoms and rights guaranteed in the constitution, somehow you're found to be in violation of the constitution. I think this is really ridiculous. How can you violate the constitution when you are acting in accordance with the constitution? Then you have court sentences that violate the constitution. Its ridiculous. I can't understand it.

So that's why just now I said that if both sides had compromised in 1989, then everybody could have worked together to discuss how to build democracy. Mr. Zhao Ziyang had a very famous saying. He said that we should resolve problems according to democracy and law. What he meant is this: the students called for an end to corruption. This was also a desire of our communist party. Us and you and all citizens, all workers, all intellectuals, all scholars - we can get together and figure out how to fight corruption. You are students. Great. So as students in our society what kind of attitude, what kind of status, what kind of suggestions can you make to help us oppose corruption? Under these circumstances, what kind of role can the National People's Congress play? What can the labor unions do? What can the Women's Federation do? The Student's Association? That goes without saying. What kind of role can the general citizens play? And especially, what kind of role can the newspapers play? What kind of role should the news media play? How can we have media supervision? How can they become the voice of the people? If all these issues had been discussed I don't think situation today would be the same.

If the two sides had compromised, reached an agreement, then worked together against a common enemy -- and by enemy I mean work together against corruption - what method would they use to fight corruption? Democratic methods. Constitutional methods. Not methods held over from the Cultural Revolution to fight the "three evils" or the "five evils." We should have used methods like what they use in Western democratic systems, relying on various kinds of meetings and organizations, and all kinds of news media. Resolve these problems through the various tried and true methods they have in the West. By doing this we wouldn't have digressed for ten years, we would have spent ten years learning democracy. If we had spent that ten years in the University of Democracy, I believe today would be very different. Maybe we are more stupid than people in the West, and maybe we are smarter. Who knows? Maybe in those ten years we could have learned what it took people in the West fifty years to learn. One can't say that's beyond the realm of possibility.

MACKINNON: You just brought up Westerners. At the moment in the West, and particularly in the U.S., there is quite a fierce debate about how the U.S. government should deal with the Chinese government, especially on the question of human rights. If an American congressman asked you what would be the best China policy for the U.S. to adopt how would you respond?

BAO: I would say this. If American friends really want to help bring about democracy in China, then everything they do should be to the benefit of democracy. They should do everything. They should increase engagement with China, which is President Clinton's policy. And they should also criticize China -- the way many U.S. congress people do. I think they should do both things. I think they shouldn't give up any method that could possibly bring results. Some will bring about immediate results, some will bring results eventually. They should do all of these things. They shouldn't give up immediate actions for the sake of the eventual future. But they also should not give up long-term strategies for the sake of immediate results. Friendship can help bring about democracy in China. Criticism can also bring about democracy. Pressure can also help bring about democracy in China. I think its not a bad thing for the U.S. to increase pressure on China. Just as its not a bad thing for people to increase pressure on their own government. Its like when people in the U.S. put pressure on their government it doesn't mean they're trying to overthrow it. They're just hoping that the U.S. government can be more responsive to the people's wishes. It's the same. So I don't think they should be afraid to do any given thing. I think that the more democratic China becomes, the better friend it will be for the U.S. in the international community. It will be a major factor for peace and stability, rather than an unpredictable or negative factor.

MACKINNON: Do you think that can be effective?

BAO: I think that specific situations require specific responses. So as for what has happened in the past there's no need to say too much. But as for events which may happen in the future, different kinds of things ought to be tried.

MACKINNON: I would like to ask a question about Zhao Ziyang. How do you think history will remember him?

BAO: I think history will remember what he said: that problems must be solved in the framework of democracy and law. I believe that no major problem in China today can be solved outside of this framework. Not just corruption. Other problems are the same. Outside of the framework of democracy and law, none of China's major problems can be solved. If we don't solve problems within this framework we will certainly fail. For instance, the June 4 crackdown failed because it violated the principles of democracy and law. If the government reverses its position, it will definitely succeed because this would be in keeping with the framework of democracy and law. Some people say that Zhao Ziyang failed. I don't see it that way. I believe that Zhao Ziyang won because he upheld the ideas of democracy and law, so he proved that the June 4 crackdown was wrong. Looking at it another way, we can see that if the government were to reverse its position on June 4, China would definitely have a bright future. I believe that this proves that Zhao Ziyang did not fail. His ideals, his goals, they still stand firm. They haven't just stood for ten years. I believe they'll stand for one hundred years. Of course I won't be here in one hundred years, but I believe that in one hundred years, people will see that Zhao Ziyang was more enlightened than Deng Xiaoping on this question.

MACKINNON: How do you think most ordinary Chinese people view this 10th anniversary?

BAO: I believe that history is written by the common people. One day when the ordinary people of China get the right to write their own history, they will write what they really think. I have not seen Mr. Zhao in ten years. I would very much like to see him. But I haven't been to see him because I'm afraid of creating trouble for him. I wish that the Chinese government would make an announcement that Mr. Zhao Ziyang enjoys full freedoms. Then I would go and see him. But from what I understand from foreign media reports, after Mr. Zhao wrote an open letter around the time of the 15th Party Congress, his situation has gotten worse. His freedoms have not expanded, but have been restricted more. If I went to see him now I would bring him trouble. I don't want Mr. Zhao to have even more trouble than he already does. So even though I'd really like to see him, I figure I shouldn't go. Even though I really want to see him. I really miss him.

MACKINNON: It seems that to many people he represents the road not taken.

BAO: Some say that Mr. Zhao represented one road, and Mr. Deng represented another road. This is true. But if some people thought the road taken by Mr. Deng was correct, but now think that Mr. Zhao's road is even more correct and they'd like to go in his direction, wouldn't that be a very good thing? Then I think that Mr. Zhao would not be arrogant and insist that this was "Mr. Zhao's path". He would say this is the road we've all taken together. This is the Chinese people's road to democracy. Wouldn't that be very good? It's nobody's road in particular. It is the road that the Chinese people all want to travel, the road to democracy. It's the road China should take to move closer to the rest of the world. So that China can be a full member of international society. A civilized member. A progressive member. A democratic member.

MACKINNON: Are there things he should have done differently at the time?

BAO: There were things he shouldn't have done. As I said before. Political reforms came too late. I believe political reform was too late. I believe that the fact that we delayed political reforms is the common disease of my generation of communist party members. Its not just me who made this mistake. Zhao Ziyang made the same mistake. I believe that Hu Yaobang also made the same mistake. He didn't realize how to go about implementing democratic political reforms. He wasn't very clear. Nobody was clear. Deng Xiaoping was not clear either. The problem was that some people were going along and thinking at the same time, reconsidering things, constantly contemplating things, and constantly correcting their own mistakes. Other people go along, thinking, but continue on with their own mistakes. This is where the division lies. I don't think you can say that at the beginning one person was this way or the other. I believe that at least among the leaders that I know, among the leaders I have met, not a single one could clearly raise such a question. Everybody had this problem. At the time, you can forgive them for that. But after having had those experiences, after this time has passed, I think people's heads ought to be clearer. If they're still not clear, then one must wonder why.

MACKINNON: What do you think is the most pressing problem now?

BAO: I think one can easily say that it starts with reversing the policy on June 4. Solving that will solve everything. Once this problem is solved, I think the common people will be extremely happy. Everybody would raise all kinds of suggestions. Everybody's political activism would immediately increase. Their sense of political responsibility would also increase. I believe that if we maintain the current position about June 4, that will be a major blow to the common people. And it's a deep blow to the common people, an unbearable blow. If the policy on June 4 can be reversed, the people's sense of political participation and responsibility will be strengthened. And then the country's stability will be more firmly guaranteed. I've always felt this way. Our country's stability cannot stand on the foundation of oppression and force. Our country's stability ought to be founded on the basis of the support of all the people. Relying on what? Relying on democracy. Just like Mao said. This is not just Bao Tong talking trash. This is repeating what Mao Zedong said fifty years ago to Huang Yanpei.

MACKINNON: This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic. Its not an easy year. The economy is slowing down, yet there is still a lot of reform of state industry taking place. There is a problem with unemployment. Looking back on the last fifty years, what do you think should we be celebrating? What shouldn't we be celebrating?

BAO: I think that on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, we should celebrate nothing other than the rise in the ordinary peoples status in our society. If the ordinary people's status has really improved, then we have something to celebrate. If their status has not risen then I don't think we should celebrate, but rather contemplate. Think about the lessons. Think about what we can do in the next 50 years to raise the status of the ordinary people. People have economic status and political status. With economic status, there is relative status and absolute status. Absolute status refers to their exact economic level. Relative status means the gap between rich and poor. Political status is the same. For instance there's the situation where one nation oppresses another, like during the anti-Japanese war or with the Nazis. But there's also another kind of situation, when within one country you have the rulers and the ruled, the relationship and distance between the two. I believe this is a very important thing. I hope that our People's Republic of China will not be a Kingdom, but a People's Republic. That depends of the status of the ordinary citizens within their own country. Are they rulers? And are they rulers just in name or in reality? If its in reality, not just in theory, then they can enjoy the economic and political status as rulers of their own country, and of their future.

MACKINNON: What do you think the answer is for China?

BAO: As Liu Shaoqi once said, history must be written by the common people. I hope that our history, starting from before 50 years ago, can all be written by the people. And that the history from 1949 to 1999 can be written by the people. As for the history of the next 50 years, I believe the people must shape it themselves. They should create their own history with their own hands. That is, the past 50 years must be evaluated by the people. Must be graded, and decide how many points to give it. Give a report card.

MACKINNON: Do you think that the people will have that opportunity this year?

BAO: I hope they'll have this opportunity. If they don't have the opportunity I hope they can at least make a head start. I would like to think that. Today, if the people of the People's Republic can't even write their own history, then I think we don't deserve to be called a People's Republic.

If I were to celebrate Chinas 50th anniversary, I would celebrate it by reversing the policy on June 4. It is the least costly, but the most effective. The whole world would immediately be very understanding and very supportive. And I think that all the funds being used towards the ceremonies should be given to laid-off workers. They should be used to pay for a lot of basic projects, like Roosevelt's New Deal. Take it to enrich the society of tomorrow, and create more employment opportunities for today's labor force. I think this is the best solution. It's better than fireworks. This is my idea. It isn't necessarily anybody else's, but I'll stick to it.

MACKINNON: You are under heavy police surveillance. You have been warned against speaking to Western journalists. Why do you dare speak out?

BAO: I say its because I'm a Chinese citizen. As long as I am a Chinese citizen I ought to have the freedom of speech given to me by the constitution. As long as I have freedom of speech, I ought to be able to say what I really think and feel. I don't want to speak other people's words. I don't want to sing the praises of other people's power. I have this right. Some may worry that this may anger certain people and that it won't be in my interests. But I don't want to think too much about that. I think that in the morning, you say what you need to say. In the evening, you account for it. I think that's still worth it.

MACKINNON: Are you afraid of going back to jail for speaking out?

BAO: I am afraid of jail, but I think that if I'm going to go to jail, the people who send me there will not be able to avoid taking responsibility for it. I will not be paying any price myself. There is no price I can pay because I already have nothing. If you asked me what do I have to lose, I can't think of anything more that I could lose. What will the people who punish me lose? I can't say what they will lose. This is not an even trade. I think that these questions are superficial. The most important question is no matter who you are, everybody should think about what they ought to do to help the Chinese people, and what they should say. If you're clear about that, that's the most important thing. Everything else is superficial. It is inevitable that every person has a different opinion.

MACKINNON: You were the first official to go to jail for political reasons since the Cultural Revolution, werent you?

BAO: I probably was. I'll put it this way. After the Cultural Revolution, after the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress, I think it was at the 4th plenum of the 11th Party Congress [in December 1978], they issued a decision about internal party affairs. One of the regulations was that for a Communist Party member, no matter what the circumstances, you cannot use measures against them that go beyond the Party Platform and beyond the Constitution. Since that regulation was issued, I'm the first Communist Party member who received treatment that violated the Party Platform and the Constitution. I can say that. So as soon as I got to Qincheng Prison I asked them to give me three documents: a copy of the constitution, a copy of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Justice Law, and a Party Platform. They gave them to me. I went on the 28th. They gave them to me on the 30th and on the 31st I wrote a letter. I said I never imagined that after the 4th Plenum of the 11th Party Congress, the first person to be punished in violation of the Party Platform and Constitution would be me.

MACKINNON: What were the circumstances of your imprisonment?

BAO: Even now when I think about it I find it funny. I had an opportunity to rest. At noon on May 28 1989 I received a notice saying there was a Central Committee meeting and I should go. Because I was the political secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, so I had responsibility to go when the Central Committee held a meeting. So I went. But when I went they switched my car. It wasn't my car. It was changed to a car that seemed likely to be a Public Security or State Security car. I couldn't figure out why they'd changed my car. They said they couldn't find my car and found this one instead. So I got in. As soon as I got in I had no idea where we were going. When we got there I asked: "Isn't this Qincheng Prison?" I'd never been to Qincheng and wasn't sure where it was and didn't know what it looked like. They said, "Yes, it is Qincheng". By then it was probably around 3:00 in the afternoon. As soon as I got there I said, "Is anybody going to want to talk to me today?" They said, "Probably not". So I went to sleep. I slept until evening, when somebody woke me for dinner. I said, "After dinner will anybody want to talk to me about anything?" They said no. So I went to sleep again. Then somebody woke me again in the morning. It was a hospital doctor who said he wanted to check my blood pressure. My blood pressure was very normal. I slept really well. I hadn't slept better in decades. I felt great. I thought it was great that I'd have a chance to get some rest. A chance to think soberly about everything I had done in my life. What I'd done right and what I'd done wrong. I don't think there are many people who go right to sleep as soon as they are put in jail. But this was how it was with me. Its true. And I slept very well. At the time when the prison director saw that I was sleeping so well. They were really surprised. I didn't take a single sleeping pill. I think that I had gone without sleep for too long, so it was good I could catch up on my sleep. All of this is idle chatter. You don't need to broadcast it.

MACKINNON: But it seems what you really mean is that you were not angry.

BAO: That's right

MACKINNON: You didn't feel it was a huge waste of time?

BAO: This wasn't a problem I could solve. I think that if you failed to do what you should have done, then you should feel regret. If you've tried to do what you should have done, but it didn't work, then at least you know you did it, and you can live with yourself.

MACKINNON: You can sleep at night?

BAO: I can sleep at night. That's right.

(Taiwans February 28 Incident: On that day in 1949 Nationalist troops shot and killed native Taiwanese who opposed rule by the mainland Chinese Nationalist government, which settled on Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists. An official apology to the relatives was not made until 1991 by President Lee Teng-hui.)

This was the Peoples Daily editorial of April 26 which first denounced the student demonstrators as counterrevolutionary. It was widely believed to have been authored by Deng Xiaoping.

Rebecca MacKinnon

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