New Threat to China Hard-liners

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BEIJING: As President Jiang Zemin sells his privatization plan to the Communist Party Congress, former premier Zhao Ziyang is causing more headaches for hard-liners by calling for a reassessment of the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. The appeal is part of a bid for political rehabilitation by Zhao, who was purged following the massacre for his soft stance toward the protesters, and always maintained that Tiananmen Square was a mistake.

How will China's new moderate president cope with this historical revisionism? "Jiang will try to hold the line," says TIME's Asia expert Oscar Chiang. "If he fully reinstates Zhao, it would be a refutation of Deng Xiaoping, and the party hard-liners won't allow that." One compromise would be to rehabilitate Zhao while maintaining that the protests constituted a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" that needed to be crushed. But as Chiang points out, even the slightest nod to Zhao would be a sign of changing times in Beijing.