On January 6, a bronze statue of former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang was unveiled on Dachen Island, Zhejiang Province. Hu was General Secretary between 1982 and 1987, when he was deposed by Deng Xiaoping on the grounds that Hu’s “bourgeois liberalism” had led to the unrest sweeping the country.
This public memorialising of Hu, and its corresponding writeup in the Chinese-edition of the Global Times, is incredibly heartening news. Hu was one of the leading liberal figures in the Party under Deng, focusing not only on economic but also political reform. Though Hu was deposed as student protests broke out across the country in the late 1980s, he remained hugely popular with the general populace.
A day after Hu’s death, in 1989, a minor demonstration held to commemorate him and demand that the government rehabilitate him. This in turn led to a march, a day before Hu’s funeral, of 100,000 people on a certain square in Beijing and the greatest crisis the Party had faced since the end of the Second World War.
While tragically the reformers and Hu’s allies, such as his successor Zhao Ziyang, lost out to the hardliners around Deng in the internal struggle that followed the 1989 incident, progress does seem to be being made in finally opening up those fraught years to public discussion and healing.
Unlike Zhao, who remained an inspirational and unrepentant reformer until his death and whose name is still verboten, Hu was officially rehabilitated in 2005, though this statue is the most public memorialisation of him so far. Wen Jiabao was a protege of Hu and has been vocal (at least, for a CPC official) in his admiration for his mentor.
(h/t: Kaiser Kuo)