Bao Tong at his Beijing home in 2008
Bao Tong (born November 1932 in Haining, Zhejiang) was former Director of the Office of Political Reform of the CPC Central Committee and the Policy Secretary of Zhao Ziyang, Premier of the State Council, from 1980 to 1985. He was also Director of the Drafting Committee for the CCP 13th Party Congresses, known for its strong support for market reform and opening up under Deng Xiaoping. Prior to this, he was a committee member and then Deputy Director of the Chinese State Commission for Economic Reform.
Bao was born in Haining, Zhejiang Province, but grew up in Shanghai. He currently lives in Beijing, where he lives with his wife, Jiang Zongcao, his daughter Bao Jian, and granddaughter Bao Yangyang. He has a son, Bao Pu, who resides abroad.
Bao was Director of the Office of Political Reform of the CPC Central Committee and the Policy Secretary of Zhao Ziyang, Premier of the State Council, from 1980 to 1985. He was also Director of the Drafting Committee for the CPC 13th Party Congresses, prior to which he was a committee member and then Deputy Director of the Chinese State Commission for Economic Reform.
On May 28, 1989, he was arrested in Beijing just before the crushing of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Zhao Ziyang had resigned as General Secretary of the CPC in protest when Deng Xiaoping made the decision to crack down on the students. Bao Tong was a close associate of Zhao and the writer of his speeches and editorials supporting a democratic and legal approach to the student movement. Zhao was held under house arrest for the rest of his life, while Bao Tong was officially charged with "revealing state secrets and counter-revolutionary propagandizing", the highest government official to be charged in relation to the 1989 movement. He was publicly convicted in 1992 in a brief show trial and sentenced to 7 seven years' imprisonment with 2 years deprivation of political rights. He served his full sentence in isolation at Qincheng Prison.
On May 27, 1996, when he was due to be released upon completing his prison sentence, he was instead held at a government compound in Xishan (outside Beijing) for an additional year, until his family agreed to move out of their apartment in town to one allocated for them by the authorities, where a 24-hour guarded gate and surveillance cameras were installed. Visitors were screened, the phone was tapped or cut off entirely, and Bao Tong was followed by an entourage of men the moment he stepped out of his home. Though he has moved to another apartment in Beijing, the system of surveillance and curtailing his phone calls, visitors and movements has followed him to his new home.
Bao Tong appealed for the restoration of civil and political rights of Zhao Ziyang from 1998 until Zhao's death. He was instrumental to the publication in May 2009 of Zhao Ziyang's memoir, based on audiotapes that Zhao made secretly while under house arrest and discovered after his death in 2005. Bao Tong's son Bao Pu, and daughter-in-law Renee Chiang, published the book Journey of Reform (改革歷程) in Hong Kong and translated and edited (along with Adi Ignatius) an English version of this book entitled Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang. Bao Tong wrote an introduction for the Chinese version.
Bao Tong continues to write articles openly critical of the government and its policies. He supports further democratic development in Hong Kong and continues to voice the need for political reform in China. He was a signer of the Charter 08 manifesto and calls for the release of Liu Xiaobo, an organiser of the charter who was arrested in December 2008.
On January 19, 2005, the Washington Post reported that Bao Tong and his wife were injured in attacks by more than 20 plainclothes security agents as they attempted to leave their home to pay their respect to the family of Zhao Ziyang, who died on January 17. The authorities would only allow him access to a doctor if he removed a white flower pinned to his vest. He refused. (Note that the white flower is a traditional symbol of mourning) His wife, pushed to the ground by a policeman, fractured a bone in her spine that had her hospitalized for 3 months.
On January 1, 2007, Reuters tested a new government relaxing of regulations on foreign reporters by visiting Bao Tong at his home, purportedly to conduct an interview about the Beijing Olympics. Since then, several foreign reporters have done the same. The guards sometimes attempt to intimidate or deny visitation, but are apparently allowing most foreign reporters to enter, if prior arrangements are made. Local Chinese reporters are not included in this new relaxation of regulations. Sky News reporter Peter Sharp describes his visit to Bao Tong in his blog.
Their home telephone continues to be tapped and periodically cut off, especially when overseas callers ask to speak to Bao Tong. He is followed everywhere he goes, and is occasionally blocked from “sensitive” events or places, for example, the home of Zhao Ziyang while he was alive, and his funeral after his death in 2005. Bao has been allowed to leave Beijing on three occasions since his arrest in 1989, the last time in 2009 for a holiday by invitation and escort of the Public Security from May 22 to June 7, neatly avoiding the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. Visits from his son, Bao Pu, a resident of Hong Kong, are permitted by special arrangements only; under normal circumstances of application, he is unable to obtain a visa.
- On the CPC leadership : "We must correct all of Deng Xiaoping's mistakes. This is the only way to truly uphold Deng Xiaoping's vision. This is what it truly means to carry on Deng Xiaoping's work. Only when they acknowledge his mistakes and correct his mistakes can they stand taller than Deng Xiaoping. Otherwise they have no right to call themselves Deng Xiaoping's successors. They can only call themselves the successors of Deng Xiaoping's mistakes."
- On mourning Zhao Ziyang : "[his] life formed part of a heroic and mighty task, that of pioneering the protection of human rights and democracy for the Chinese people... To mourn Zhao is to defend human rights. To mourn Zhao is to pursue democracy and the rule of law."
- On the 2008 Chinese milk scandal : "The tainted milk scandal shows us that the more dark secrets are exposed, the better. You can't cure the disease, or save the Chinese people, until you get to the root of the problem." "If the Chinese government tries to play down this incident, there will be no social stability in China, let alone harmony... It will mean that this government has lost the most basic level of trust."
- "Writers' columns - Bao Tong". Chinaaffairs.org. Retrieved August 1, 2006.
- "China in Focus #1". asiaamerica.org. January 20, 2005.
- "In A Tiananmen Rebel's Glass Prison". sky.com. January 17, 2008.
- "Former Community Party official: Last decade 'wasted'". Rebecca McKinnon. CNN. June 2, 1999.
- "China in Focus #1". asiaamerica.org. January 20, 2005.
- "Uproar Over China Milk Scandal". Radio Free Asia. September 23, 2008.
- Bao Tong Articles on RFA.org
- Financial Times profiles Bao Tong
- Wall Street Journal interviews Bao Tong
- Alliance Introduction
- Project Syndicate