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Legacy of Tiananmen Crackdown Lingers Over China’s Politics

Analysts reflect on the life of key Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang, who died in 2005 after being under house arrest for almost two decades and kept a secret journal chronicling the events around the Tiananmen Square protests.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now a retrospective look from a key Chinese leader. Margaret Warner has that story.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It was one of the most dramatic moments in the Tiananmen Square crisis 20 years ago: a top Chinese leader going to the square to warn pro-democracy striking students to show restraint.

    But two weeks later, on the night of June 4, 1989, those efforts of Communist Party Chief Zhao Ziyang and the lives of hundreds of students were swept aside by People's Liberation Army tanks.

    Zhao, disgraced and put under house arrest, died in 2005. Now his memoirs are being published, "Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang." Based on secret tape recordings, the book offers an unprecedented look inside the Chinese leadership as it grappled with the Tiananmen crisis.

    For more on the book and how it came to light, we go to Adi Ignatius, co-editor and translator. He covered the Tiananmen Square movement as the Wall Street journal's Beijing bureau chief.

    And to Roderick MacFarquhar, who wrote the forward and is a professor of government at Harvard University.

    Welcome to you both. This is quite a gripping tale. Let's start by having you remind us, Roderick MacFarquhar, what is the significance? How significant a figure was Zhao Ziyang in modern China?

  • RODERICK MACFARQUHAR, Harvard University:

    Everyone remembers Deng Xiaoping as the person who created the reform movement in China in the 1980s, but it was, in fact, Zhao Ziyang who was his choice as prime minister and leader as general secretary of the party during the '80s who did all the work. He was the architect of the reform program.