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Sunday Morning News

Release of `Tiananmen Papers' Could Stimulate Chinese Reform

Aired January 7, 2001 - 9:30 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Nearly 12 years after the bloody crackdown on demonstrating students in China's Tiananmen Square, a new book is containing some documents that may uncover why the Communist government took its violent stance.

Our Rebecca McKinnon is in Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MCKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eleven years after the crackdown, the few in Beijing who dare to discuss such things are wondering who leaked "The Tiananmen Papers" and why. The American publishers have promised not to reveal the identity of the person who gave them the documents.

JAMES F. HOGE JR., "FOREIGN AFFAIRS" MAGAZINE: He does indeed represent very high-standing elements within the Communist regime, only very high-standing folks would have these documents in the first place.

MCKINNON: Since 1989, China's leaders have kept serious political reform off the agenda, focusing instead on economic development. The source of "The Tiananmen Papers" told publishers he believes China's economic reforms will falter unless political reforms begin again.

HOGE: The compiler says that both he and the elements he represents within the Communist Party hope, as I say, not to overthrow Communist rule, but to get back to where things were going, they believe, before Tiananmen Square, which was that there was both economic reform coming along, and there was very gradual opening of the political process.

MCKINNON: The documents include transcripts of conservative leader Lee Pung (ph), then premier, now head of China's parliament, encouraging a military crackdown on the students.

They also reveal how the current president, Jiang Zemin, was then promoted to Communist Party general secretary by retired party elders, not by actual members of the government.

The papers are seen in Beijing's intellectual circles as a tactical ploy to weaken Lee Pung and Jiang Zemin politically and strengthen more liberal leaders untainted by 1989. But some fear "The Tiananmen Papers" could have the opposite effect.

DAI QING, ACTIVIST (voice of translator): I think this will cause a backlash. It's high time for old people like Jiang Zemin and Lee Pung to leave their jobs, but now, if there's a huge outcry about them internationally, they'll insist on staying in office just to make a point.

MCKINNON (on camera): China's political factions are already starting to maneuver as the Communist Party prepares to announce a new leadership lineup in 2002. It remains unclear just how these new revelations about events almost 12 years ago will influence China's political future.

Rebecca McKinnon, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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