April 15th was the twentieth anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s death. Hu was a beloved leader, the General Secretary of the CCP for nearly a decade, and many people were thinking about his legacy on Wednesday. One group of people who wasn’t thinking about Hu Yaobang? The staff at the People’s Daily.
Hu Yong noted on his blog that the People’s Daily’s “today in history” feature was missing Hu’s death, even though they seemed to catch on to most of the other important things that happened on April 15ths throughout history:
[Noted are] the deaths of Hollywood stars, the passing of a French existentialist, the assassination of an American emancipator, the birth of North Korea’s “great leader”, they even mark a Cambodian mass murderer’s entrance to hell; they only forgot one person, a Chinese person, a great Chinese leader who left us on this day.
On the one hand, the People’s Daily is the mouthpiece of the Party. It’s very unlikely that they actually forgot about Hu, so this omission sends a message. That message seems somewhat contrary to earlier signs that Hu’s legacy is beginning to be recognized by the Party, even if he hasn’t been officially rehabilitated.
An even more interesting phenomenon has popped up in the comments on the post, though, as people are discovering that the names Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang are being censored automatically when they type them, thus, one netizen’s original question “Who was it, Hu Yaobang or Zhao Ziyang?” came out as “Who was it, *** or ***?”
As one netizen commented: “Actually, this just proves he hasn’t died yet.”
What do you think? Does censoring his name erase his legacy or ultimately add fuel to the fire? And why would the government try to pretend he didn’t exist anyway?