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Tiananmen author optimistic on future leaders

By Willy Lam, CNN's Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- The compiler of the Tiananmen Papers says he is confident the reformist wing of the Chinese Communist Party may start a liberalization process after the current leadership has passed from the scene.

Zhang Liang, now resident in the United States, gives an overall positive assessment of the so-called Fourth Generation leadership -- cadres in their late 50s to early 60s who will take over the helm at the 16th party congress next year.


"This is a generation of leaders who are in general good at accepting new information, new ideas and getting in tune with the flow of events on the world stage," Zhang told CNN.

Zhang, believed to be a cadre in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square crackdown, said should the social conditions be ripe, it was possible for the Fourth Generation leadership to overturn the official verdict on the pro-democracy student movement.

Among the Third Generation of cadres, Zhang identified Premier Zhu Rongji and Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Li Ruihuan, as pro-reform officials.

Zhang said the power of the conservative President Jiang Zemin and National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng was less than that wielded by Chairman Mao Zedong or late patriarch Deng Xiaoping.

However, he said Jiang and Li were still able to prevent a reassessment of the June 4 events.

Helping reform

Zhang had earlier indicated that he hoped the publication of the Tiananmen papers would help the reformist course.

He added the fact that the authorities were so scared about the papers had indirectly proven their authenticity.

Analysts said, however, that in the short term, the Papers had probably helped Li Peng and other participants in the June 4, 1989 crackdown secure a new lease on life.

For example, Li, 72, had pointed to the documents as evidence of a conspiracy by Chinese dissidents and "hostile foreign forces" to subvert the party.

Since last winter, Li has ordered a further crackdown on dissent.

And he has argued that cadres with experience in thwarting "neo-imperialist plots against China" such as Jiang and himself, should be allowed to serve the party for a few more years at least.

Since early this year, Zhang has written occasionally for the Hong Kong Chinese press on current events in China.

In these new pieces, Zhang has on occasion cited original material from unpublicized documents.

Under the pretext of plugging leaks of state secrets, police and state security personnel have tightened their surveillance on liberal intellectuals as well as Chinese-American scholars doing research on China.

Western diplomats said the atmosphere in Beijing was very tight -- and that the leadership's clampdown on liberal opinion would continue for the foreseeable future.

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