Openness in China About Memoir Proves Short-Lived

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For more than a week, Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official now under strict surveillance, openly promoted an insider’s account of Chinese political infighting sure to be banned in China.

The book is the posthumous memoir by Mr. Bao’s boss, Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party chief fired in 1989 for opposing the use of troops to quash pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Before his death in 2005, Mr. Zhao furtively recorded his account of that period.

When the memoir became public last week, Mr. Bao, the most senior Communist Party official imprisoned after the crackdown, quickly claimed responsibility. In a string of interviews with the foreign press that security officials did not initially seek to prevent, he said he had collaborated with other liberal party elders to slip the cassette recordings out of the country for publication.

“In the past, the minute these things appear, the party would say, ‘This is turmoil; we must crack down,’ ” he said in one telephone conversation early this week. “But if the party can maintain this current calm, then maybe it can eventually be saved.”

By Friday, though, the government’s restraint appeared to be wearing thin.

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