May 19, 2009 / 9:39 AM / 10 years ago

China brushes aside Zhao's Tiananmen memoirs

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese government spokesman on Tuesday brushed aside questions about a top official purged for opposing the armed crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, saying the official verdict on the demonstrations still stood.

Former reformist Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang poses for photos at the study room of his home in central Beijing in this undated photo taken in 1993. REUTERS/New Century Media and Consulting Co., Ltd.

Zhao Ziyang, who died in 2005 after years under house arrest, secretly recorded memories of his time at the apex of Communist Party power and his ousting by Party hardliners in 1989.

He denounced the killings of protesters and onlookers around Tiananmen Square 20 years ago as a tragedy and rejected the government claim that the protests were an anti-Communist conspiracy.

“Our Party and government long ago reached a clear conclusion about the events in China of the late 1980s, the political disturbances then and all related issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, speaking hesitantly, told a regular news briefing.

China has previously branded the protests counter-revolutionary.

“During the last 30 years of reform and opening up, the development of China’s economy and society has been enormously successful,” Ma added.

“Facts prove that the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics we have traveled accords with China’s national condition, and the basic interests of the majority of the people, and reflects the wishes of the people.”

Ma’s remarks were China’s first official reaction to the memoirs, which will not be published domestically as the reformist Zhao remains a taboo subject.

Even as it has plunged into capitalism, China’s Party leadership maintains strict, though increasingly erratic, control of what its citizens can read in print and online.

That censorship will be especially stringent before the sensitive 20th anniversary of June 4.

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