Deng tells of Tiananmen role

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The Independent Online
A NEW collection of the speeches and writings of China's 89-year-old supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, published yesterday, comes closer than ever before to giving an official account of his role in the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Peking.

The third volume of Mr Deng's selected works contains an interview he gave to a Chinese-American academic, Li Zhengdao, in September 1989, some weeks after the army was ordered into Tiananmen Square in a crackdown which cost hundreds of lives. What led to the crisis, he said, was an attempt by the former party chief, Zhao Ziyang, to split the party. Mr Zhao, disgraced and dismissed shortly after Tiananmen, was once Mr Deng's heir apparent.

'It was a good thing I was there, (so) handling it wasn't difficult. Of course, I wasn't the only person who played a role,' Agence France-Presse quotes Mr Deng as saying in the book. The Chinese leader said the authorities aimed to cause as little harm as possible to the people, especially the students. He had ordered that the ensuing purge be carried out according to the law.

Mr Deng also said in the interview that there would have been civil war if the 'instigators of the turmoil' had succeeded, and spoke of a possible invasion of China by foreign forces. The aftermath of the crackdown, he said, was a perfect chance for the Communist Party to ban all dissident groups set up during the pro-democracy movement: dealing with them would be a 'big victory'.

While Mr Deng's part in the events of 1989 was no secret, said David Shambaugh of London University, 'this would be the first time we have heard it from his own mouth. There is a tremendous struggle going on over reform between the ultra-left and liberals in Zhao Ziyang's mould, and this puts Deng in the hardline camp.'

Chinese media reported heavy demand for the book, which went on sale yesterday. It contains 119 pieces dating from September 1982 to February last year, including the speeches Mr Deng made in southern China early last year to speed up the pace of economic change. His theory of 'socialism with Chinese characteristics' was praised yesterday by Jiang Zemin, Mr Zhao's successor as party chief, in a speech to mark the book's publication.