Zhao Ziyang died on the 17th of January 2005 at the age of 85; he was a high-ranking politician in China.
Born Zhao Xiuye but changed his given name to “Ziyang” while attending middle school in Wuhan.
He was the son of a wealthy landlord in Hua County, Henan, who was later murdered by Communist Party officials during a land reform movement in the early 1940s.
Zhao rose to prominence in Guangdong from 1951, initially following a ruthless ultra-leftist, Tao Zhu, who was notable for his heavy-handed efforts to force local peasants into living and working in “People’s Communes”.
When Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) created an artificial famine, Mao publicly blamed the nation’s food shortages on the greed of rich peasants, who were supposedly hiding China’s huge surplus production from the government.
Zhao’s faith in Mao led him to take a leading role in a local campaign aimed at torturing peasants into revealing their imaginary food supplies.
Through supporting the Great Leap Forward, Zhao was partially responsible for the millions of people who died from starvation and malnutrition in Guangdong between 1958 and 1961.
Zhao’s rehabilitation began in April 1971, when he and his family were woken in the middle of the night by someone banging on the door.
Without much explanation, the Party chief of the factory that Zhao was working at 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 ready to take him.
After being recalled from political exile, Zhao attempted to portray himself as a born-again Maoist, and publicly renounced any interest in encouraging private enterprise or material incentive.
Zhao’s late conversion to Maoism did not last long, and he later became a “principal architect” of the sweeping, pro-market changes that followed the death of Mao.
Despite his important role in guiding the economy of China over the course of his career, Zhao had no formal training in economics.
As premier, Zhao Ziyang oversaw the implementation of a new, radical and ultimately successful “market socialist” and “open door” economic program, which helped attract foreign investment in the country and boosted foreign trade.
In 1987, Zhao replaced the disgraced Hu Yaobang as the Communist Party’s general secretary.
But Zhao wouldn’t hold on to the Communist Party’s top spot for long: In 1989, he made a controversial visit to the student protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where he spoke to the demonstrators through a megaphone, imploring them to go home.
“We have come too late and it is only right that you criticize us,” Zhao said, according to The New York Times.
This proved to be his final public appearance. Party officials objected to what they deemed his over-liberal handling of student pro-democracy demonstrations, and had him dismissed from his post.
Zhao was arrested and confined to his home while being investigated for a possible role in the uprising.
For the past 26 years, Chinese authorities have done everything they can to erase the name of Zhao Ziyang.
But he still lives in the memory of those who want the truth about China’s contemporary history to be told.