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He's a former Chinese Communist Party leader, removed from office for opposing the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen student protestors. Tributes flowed on Monday, on what would've been Zhao Ziyang's 92nd birthday. He's remembered for his aspirations for a reformed and democratic China.
At Zhao Ziyang's former home in Beijing, family and friends held a small, private vigil on Monday. Although the former Chinese Communist Party leader has become a taboo in China's politics today, Zhao's legacy continues to resonate with many on his 92nd birth date.
[Yu Meisun, Former Subordinate of Zhao Ziyang]:
"We still think of his achievements and his aspirations for constitutional governance, democracy and the rule of law, as well as his fall from power after opposing firing on Tiananmen protestors. Moreover, society is sliding, corruption is worsening, and all of these are far from the goals of reform all those years ago. So the people are really remembering his aspirations."
Zhao Ziyang emerged as a reformist during the 1980s, and was appointed the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 1987. During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Zhao took a stance against the regime's military crackdown. He publicly appealed for students to end hunger strikes one day before authorities imposed martial law.
[Chen Zhifei, Former Tiananmen Student Activist]:
"Zhao was the only senior official to visit students at Tiananmen. He spoke as an elder and asked us to stop the hunger strikes. He treated the students as his children, and many of us cried at the time. When more details from that time emerged, we realized he had shouldered a great deal of pressure, and his political future to make this humane decision. We really do think highly of him."