One of my old blog posts about the history journal Yanhuang Chunqiu has attracted unusually high traffic in the last couple of days. This prompted me to conduct a search to find out what had happened.
A rumour about the shutting down of the Journal’s website came to my attention since early this week. I first came across this news from the Radio Free Asia Mandarin Service. Two days later, Jane Macartney of Timesonline also published a report about the ban. This really puzzles me because, from where I am, I have no problem accessing the website. I also checked with a few friends of mine who are working in China. They confirmed that the website had been shut down for around 48 hours during the weekend. However, for reasons unknown, the blockage was lifted on Monday.
But traffic for my Yanhuang Chunqiu blog post keeps surging. And my search continues.
Finally, a shocking piece of news came to the surface this morning. The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reveals that Du Daozheng, the former chief editor of Yanhuang Chunqiu, has withdrawn his support for the book Prisoner of the State, the English edition of Premier Zhao Ziyang’s secret journal. The following is a partial translation of the Ming Pao report:
The CCP veteran Du Daozheng, who assisted Zhao Ziyang to record his memoir onto audio tapes, will publish a statement at the forthcoming June issue of Ming Pao Monthly Magazine to denounce the English version of Zhao’s memoir Prisoner of the State. Du maintains that both the title and the preface of the book lack objectivity and have misrepresented Zhao’s original intention. Du also points out that the comrades who were entrusted with the task of concealing the audio tapes have never handed over the tapes to people outside of the Zhao family. He voices his strong objection to the publication of Zhao’s memoir at this point in time and claims that his view is “firmly shared” by the Zhao family. The translator of Zhao’s memoir is Bao Pu, the son of Zhao Ziyang’s former secretary Bao Tong. Bao Pu is also the owner of the New Century Publishing House, and the publisher of Gaige Licheng (or The Course of Reform) – the Chinese edition of the memoir. The book will be available for sale in bookstores this Friday. Ming Pao made a telephone call to Bao Pu last night to verify the report. Bao Pu hung up on our reporter as soon as Du Daozheng’s name was mentioned.
The tapes, as Du had described in his statement, was recorded in the spirit of objectivity; it was done calmly, peacefully and with the best intention. Throughout Zhao Ziyang’s voice recordings, Deng Xiaoping was consistently hailed as the leader of the Economic Reform and Open Door Policy. Both Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang himself only played the roles of Deng’s left and right arms. After consulting his friends, Du came to the conclusion that the title and the preface of the English edition had been excessive in exaggerating Zhao’s personal accomplishment. According to Du, “this is not objective and will not stand the test of history”.
Du Daozheng will also publish a revised preface for the Chinese edition of Zhao’s memoir alongside his statement at the Ming Pao Monthly Magazine. The Ming Pao report claims that the revised preface is the authentic version endorsed by Du. Apparently another version of Du’s preface has already appeared in the May issue of the Yazhou Zhoukan. A Deutsche Welle Chinese report carries a brief comparison of the two prefaces. It seems both versions contain very positive appraisal of the memoir in terms of its accuracy and its authority. However, there are discrepancies in some details, particularly the sequence of events surrounding a meeting that Zhao conducted with his family in June (or May) 1989.
Not everyone is buying into this story about an argument between Du Daozheng and Bao Pu. Some overseas pro-democracy news portals suggest that Du Daozheng and his family may have been threatened with permanent house arrest for the role he played in concealing and transferring out of China audio tapes on which Zhao Ziyang had recorded his memoirs. As a compromise, Du might have resorted to distancing himself from the controversy, and issuing a statement to denounce the English-language version of Zhao’s memoirs, blaming it for exaggerating Zhao’s original words, overstating Zhao’s contribution to the cause of reform and underplaying the seminal role Deng Xiaoping had played in propelling reforms.
Another disturbing piece of news about the safety of Bao Tong has also emerged. Bao’s family in Beijing has confirmed for Radio Free Asia that Bao Tong has been taken away from his home in Beijing for an “excursion”. His whereabouts is currently unknown.