June 4th: CCP Leadership Needs to Come Clean

June 5, 2007

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Hong Kong’s large turnout for its annual candlelight vigil last night to commemorate the lives lost in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, is an important reminder that China’s central government should come clean on this tragic event.

Of course, such an unprecedented admission would likely have a high political cost for President Hu Jintao’s regime, possibly jeopardizing the political consensus he has constructed in order to push through important policies in areas such as poverty alleviation and environmental protection. Yet, President Hu and Premier Wen have built-up enough support to withstand this potential political fall-out and to turn it to their advantage in dealing with the crisis of confidence facing China’s party leadership.

Instead of “implementing Maoist-era ideological campaigns to revive the party’s fortunes”, Hu should squarely acknowledge the mistakes made by the central leadership with regard to the 1989 Tiananmen tragedy (as well as the Great Leap Forward famine and Cultural Revolution violence). The high turn out at Hong Kong’s vigil, despite the fact that 58% of HK people polled in April 2007 had a high or relatively high degree of trust in Central government leadership, suggests that such party rectification measures would be supported by people who want Hu’s government to succeed.  In other words, the CPG government need not feel threatened by these demonstrators.  Just because these people want the CCP to come clean on this, does not mean that they don’t support the current regime and want it to succeed.

Only by admitting these errors and, more importantly, by sharing what reform measures the CCP leadership has undertaken to safeguard China against a repetition of such policy mistakes, will Hu & Wen be able to convince their people that the CCP has what it takes to lead China into the future.

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