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Wednesday, June 24, 1998 Published at 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Tiananmen 'a mistake' says ex-leader

China's leaders called the protests a "rebellion"

The former Chinese leader, Zhao Ziyang, is reported to have appealed to the Communist leadership to admit that it was a mistake to use troops against demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.


A letter attributed to Mr Zhao and seen by Reuters news agency said the killing of pro-democracy demonstrators was "one of the biggest human rights problems this century" and was an obstacle to China's international relations.

Mr Zhao lost his job after the Tiananmen Square protests were suppressed and has been under house arrest ever since.

'Too much sympathy'


[ image: The Chinese leadership said Mr Zhao had shown too much sympathy for the demonstrators]
The Chinese leadership said Mr Zhao had shown too much sympathy for the demonstrators
After visiting the square and talking to student leaders he was accused of showing too much sympathy for the demonstrators.


The BBC's James Miles
The two years that Mr Zhao was Party Secretary are widely seen as the most liberal in China's recent history. He has not been seen in public since his removal and is barred from speaking to foreign media.

A similar letter attributed to Mr Zhao appeared during last year's Communist Party congress.

Visit criticised


[ image: China's president hopes to put the incidents of 1989 behind him]
China's president hopes to put the incidents of 1989 behind him
The BBC Beijing correspondent says Mr Zhao's appeal comes as his successor, Jiang Zemin, is seeking to put the events of 1989 behind him ahead of a visit US President Bill Clinton which begins on Thursday.

The decision by Mr Clinton to take part in an official welcoming ceremony on Saturday, which will include a 21-gun salute in Tiananmen Square, has been criticised by American congressmen and exiled Chinese dissidents.


[ image: Soldiers in Tiananmen Square prepare for President Clinton's arrival]
Soldiers in Tiananmen Square prepare for President Clinton's arrival
On Monday a group of prominent Chinese dissidents called on Mr Clinton to arrange a meeting with Mr Zhao during his visit to the Chinese capital.

They said that Mr Zhao's rehabilitation would lead to a reconsideration of the 1989 protest movement which the current leadership still labels a "counter-revolutionary rebellion".



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