dilluns, 16 de novembre del 2009

A suitcase as a dinner table

"Though born in Henan Province, he built his career in Guangdong, where he became Party chief in 1965 at the remarkably tender age of 46. Like countless other officials, he was purged during the Cultural Revolution; he was assigned the relatively menial task of being a fitter at the Xiangzhong Mechanics Factory in Hunan Province. Zhao Wujun, the youngest of his four sons (there is also one daughter), worked with him. The family lived in a small apartment nearby with a suitcase in the middle of the living room that served as the dinner table.

Zhao’s return from exile shows the high regard Beijing’s leaders had for him. As Zhao once described it to friends, in April 1971 the Zhao family was suddenly roused in the middle of the night by a banging at the door. Without explanation, the factory’s Party chief informed Zhao that he was to go at once to Changsha, the provincial capital. The factory’s only means of transport was a three- wheeled motorcycle, which was quickly readied to take him.

Zhao was driven to Changsha’s airport, where a plane had been prepared to fly him to Beijing. Still unaware of what was happening, he boarded the plane; it landed in Beijing, and he was driven to the well-appointed Beijing Hotel. Zhao said he didn’t sleep all night; after his years in the political wilderness, the mattress was too soft.
In the morning, he was taken for a meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai at the Great Hall of the People. When they met, Zhao began a speech he had been preparing all night: “I have been rethinking the Cultural Revolution during these years as a labourer – ” Zhou cut him off and told him, “You’ve been called to Beijing because the Central Committee has decided to name you as a deputy Party chief of Inner Mongolia.”

Zhao later learned that Chairman Mao himself had been responsible for his return from political exile. Mao one day had suddenly asked an attendant whatever happened to Zhao Ziyang? When he was told that Zhao had been purged and sent to the countryside as a labourer, Mao expressed his displeasure with the excesses of the purification effort he had launched with the Cultural Revolution: “Purging every single person? That’s not what I want … ” With that, Zhao Ziyang was rehabilitated."

Adi Ignatius, Prisoner of the State. The secret journal of Zhao Ziyang.