Authorities in Beijing have begun removing large quantities of items from the former residence of the late ousted premier, Zhao Ziyang, in preparation for the centenary celebrations of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1, RFA has learned.
A relative of the late Premier, who was forced to spend the rest of his life under house arrest after being forced from office for his overly lenient response to the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.
On Thursday morning, removal company employees entered the traditional Beijing courtyard home at No. 6 Fuqiang Alley in Beijing’s Dongcheng district, packing a large number of items into a vehicle.
A member of the Zhao family confirmed by phone that the family was in the process of removing their belongings after being given notice to leave the state-owned property.
They did not, however, elaborate on which items were being relocated or their personal or political significance.
“We were planning to move out anyway, and it’s happening gradually,” a family member explained. “We don’t know when we’ll be finished moving.”
“The value of the items depends on your perspective,” they said. “This is entirely a private matter.”
The house has been occupied by Zhao’s daughter, Wang Yannan, and her family since his death in January 2005 at the age of 85.
Last year, the CCP General Office, which manages practical arrangements for Chinese leaders, gave them notice to leave.
According to Ji Feng, a former 1989 student protester who knows the family, the move is unlikely to be completed by the July 1 centennial.
“The original plan was to have them leave by July 1, but the authorities didn’t make them,” Ji explained. “They just let them do it when they want it.”
The house has become a focal point for memorials to Zhao and events organised by dissidents and petitioners commemorating his death, with hundreds paying their respects on the anniversary and during the traditional Qing Ming grave-tending festival in April.
Ji believes the family’s insistence on moving was a bid to ensure that it would not serve as a focal point for dissent during the centennial celebrations.
“While only Wang Yannan and her husband actually lived there,” he explained, “a lot of people will go there to pay their respects, often in connection with the Tiananmen Square massacre.”
“They are concerned that if more people go, it will cause unrest,” Ji explained.
“The site has become a pilgrimage site, just like Lin Zhao’s grave,” he said, referring to the Mao-era dissident executed by the CCP. “As a result, they must get rid of it.”
Ji stated that the majority of the items currently being moved came from Zhao’s study and bedroom, and included desks, tables and chairs, upholstered furniture, and other items, which have now been taken to a warehouse on the outskirts of Beijing for storage.
Zhao’s possessions included a large number of books and other gifts from world leaders received during his overseas trips while in office, as well as commemorative photo albums, he said.
According to sources, the family may donate some items to a museum in Zhao’s hometown of Henan in China’s central province of Henan.
“The family will most likely donate some items to create a dedicated memorial hall… everything he used while carrying out his work,” Ji said.
Wang Yannan’s plan, according to Beijing-based political journalist Gao Yu, is to recreate her father’s studies in her new home.
Feng Chongyi, associate professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, expressed concern that the authorities might seize some items if they are deemed politically sensitive.
“Items belonging to former Chinese leaders are a bit of a grey area,” Feng explained. “If [the CCP] sees you as one of them, they will take precautions to protect them, and they will consider the family’s wishes when making arrangements.”
“However, they regard Zhao Ziyang as their enemy, despite the fact that he has never been publicly denounced as a traitor, so they will not protect his belongings or allow his family to take or dispose of them,” he said.
Zhao was a liberal-minded and well-liked leader who rose to the top of the ruling party at the 13th Party Congress in 1987. Prior to his ouster for sympathising with student protesters, he was a liberal-minded and well-liked leader who rose to the top of the ruling party at the 13th Party Congress in 1987.
His name is rarely mentioned in the official record, despite the fact that he has a devoted following of former officials who want to rehabilitate him as a figurehead of the reform era that began in 1979.
In a decisive break with the reformist thinking of the 1980s, China’s current supreme leader, Xi Jinping, is now serving an indefinite term as president, thanks to constitutional changes approved by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, in March 2018. (NPC).