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Exiled Chinese Reformer Urges Ouster of Hard-Liners

September 04, 1989|JIM HOAGLAND | The Washington Post

PARIS — One of the leading figures in China's economic-reform movement emerged from three months of hiding Sunday to call for an international campaign to bring down the government officials who ordered the June massacre of demonstrators in Beijing's Tian An Men Square.

Chen Yizi, an influential adviser to deposed leader Zhao Ziyang, said that hard-line forces in the Chinese government had provoked the June 3-4 military action against student demonstrators as a way of gaining control over the divided Communist regime and putting an end to Zhao's reform program, which sought to change China's socialist, centralized economy to one that responds to market forces.

Chen, who is the most senior Chinese official known to have escaped to the West from Beijing and the campaign of executions, arrests and national political intimidation that began after the army assault, spoke in a four-hour interview, the first he has given.

He said that the popular student-led demonstrations for democracy last spring brought to a head a two-year-old power struggle within the Politburo over the future of reform.

The hard-liners, led by Prime Minister Li Peng and party elder Chen Yun, began to demand military action against the demonstrators in late April but were resisted by Zhao until a climactic Politburo meeting on May 17, when Zhao was forced to resign as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, according to the account offered Sunday by Chen Yizi.

Chen, 49, said he had learned about that time that China's much-feared Public Security Bureau had placed him on a list as a "counterrevolutionary" and that someone had started to follow him. With the help of friends, he left Beijing on June 5. He would provide no details of his escape, of how he came to France or of where he has been for the last three months.

For the past decade, Chen headed China's Institute for Economic Structural Reform, one of three influential think tanks Zhao established in Beijing. The institutes developed and guided the ground-breaking reforms that introduced market incentives in light industry and agriculture, bringing significant increases in per capita income to China's peasants and many factory workers.

Chen worked closely with Zhao, who is reported to be under house arrest, and with Bao Tong, a senior reform official who was jailed May 28. At least 14 members of Chen's institute have been reported by Chinese exiles to have been arrested.

Concern for his own safety and that of his associates still in China appears to have caused Chen to wait until now to reveal publicly that he had escaped to the West.

He said he has tape-recorded more than 100 hours of discussion on sensitive matters "of recent history" that would be released by supporters if anything happens to him.

The Front for a Democratic China that he is organizing will be headquartered in Paris and will appeal for support from Chinese exiles and overseas Chinese, he said.

"We would have liked to have the organization in the United States," said Chen, whose remarks were interpreted from Chinese. "But the United States government has appeared to be reluctant to grant visas to dissidents and to help us be effective politically, while France has been very helpful. The attitude of the Bush Administration has been disappointing when you compare it to the support and sympathy we receive from Congress."

President Bush imposed limited sanctions on China to protest the crackdown on dissent. Chen said that if the United States "eases its sanctions against China, that is oxygen for Li Peng's government, and a bad investment for America because Li Peng's government cannot last long.

"Anything that strengthens the central government is bad," Chen said.

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