Zhao Ziyang met with the Tiananmen student protesters in 1989 and expressed sympathy with their calls for democracy. A young Wen Jiabao stands behind him. (Internet photo)
A number of websites have sprung up in China recently to commemorate Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese premier who was deposed as the Communist Party's general secretary after he expressed sympathy for the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, according to our sister Chinese-language newspaper Want Daily.
The most popular is an online memorial hall dedicated. About 50,000 netizens have visited the website and left messages, many of them praising Zhao as a national hero. The webpage of Diqiu Cheng stated that Zhao, who was premier from 1980-1987 and general secretary of the party from 1987-1989 served his nation, people and party well until he was ousted.
Following the bloody crackdown on the protests, ordered by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, Zhao not only lost his position but was placed under unofficial house arrest until his death in 2005. He was one of the key architects of China's economic reforms implemented under Deng, but his contributions are overshadowed by Tiananmen and the way he fell foul of the party's hardliners. Considered unmentionable, it is almost impossible for internet users in China to search his name on the web. Yet web pages in his honor are now emerging on Chinese websites such as Tonghuai.com based in Hangzhou and Diqiu Cheng in Beijing.
The webmaster of the Zhao Ziyang memorial hall site says he was frequently harassed by police for almost two years, though they have recently stopped bothering him.
Premier Wen Jiabao has made a number of calls for the political rehabilitation of the victims of Tiananmen, though this is unlikely to happen in the near future. Wen was one of Zhao Ziyang's key subordinates at the time of the protests but his own career survived intact after Zhao's fall from grace.
Zhao Ziyang 趙紫陽
Wen Jiabao 溫家寶