Reference: Zhao spotlights all of the culprits, Bangkok Post, May 18, 2009
The failure of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward program weakened his position and there began therafter a period of political infighting within the Party for supremacy and this infighting involved the formation and incitement by the Mao faction of student groups called Red Guards. On August 16, 1966, millions of these students wearing arm bands gathered at Tian Anmen Square to support Mao and to purge the anti-socialist elements that Mao had identified. Thus began China's nightmare we know as the Cultural Revolution in which thousands of Chinese intellectuals, clergy, and party officials were persecuted, tortured, and killed. The 1989 gathering in Tian Anmen by students wearing arm bands must have looked a lot like 1966 to the older members of the politburo peering out from their Party headquarters. All of these people, including Deng Xiaoping, had been persecuted by the Red Guards but had survived to lead China in the post-Mao era. The icing on the cake for them was to see Zhao Ziyang coming out to commiserate with the students just as Mao had commiserated with the Red Guards. The analogy between the two events was thus completed and although Mr Zhao meant well, his actions were surely the proximate cause of the crackdown. The fear and loathing of yet another student gathering in the Square and the reactionary crackdown ordered by China's leaders who had once been tortured by the Red Guards (Zhao spotlights all of the culprits, Bangkok Post, May 18, 2009) are best understood in this context. Sadly for China, the Red Guards have left such a bitter aftertaste for student uprisings, that it will be a long time before such uprisings are evaluated on their own merit.