Mar 04 2005

U.S. Senate Honors Chinese Reformer

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring the former Secretary General of China Zhao Ziyang. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced the bipartisan resolution. Zhao is best-known for his 1989 actions advising against the use of force to end the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He also warned thousands of students authorities were approaching the Square demonstrating his sympathy for the cause of democracy. As a result of his actions, Zhao was removed from office and placed under house arrest, a sentence he remained under for the past 15 years. When he passed away on January 17, 2005 the Chinese government was indecisive about allowing a ceremony. Eventually, they allowed a modest one to be held at which mourners were surrounded in an intimidating environment and many mourners were barred from attending. Upon his death, Zhao’s passing was not mentioned in state-controlled television broadcasts and received little attention in state-controlled newspapers. Eulogies were erased by censors on memorial websites. After the memorial service the Chinese government reluctantly released an official obituary where it noted Zhao made “serious mistakes” during the political disturbance in the spring and summer of 1989. The U.S. Senate resolution recognizes Zhao’s contributions to the reform movement in China and expresses the sympathy of the Senate to his family and supporters who were unable to grieve appropriately. Furthermore, it calls on China to release all prisoners of conscience, including those jailed after Tiananmen Square, and allow those people exiled for political activity to be allowed to return to China and live in peace. “To those who doubt the oppressive nature of the current Chinese government, the treatment of Zhao in life and death should serve as a reminder,” said Graham. “China still represses its people and denies and defies the basic tenets of a representative government. Our resolution is a signal to the Chinese government the U.S. Senate rejects these abuses of basic human rights.” ####