Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Beijing heaps scorn on Zhao, US praises him

CURSORY SEND-OFF The Chinese Communist Party has no plans to give Zhao Ziyang an elaborate funeral, while US officials praised his reform efforts


Chinese officials restated their scathing condemnation of the fallen leader Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽) yesterday, making clear that the government has no plans to officially mourn the death of the man who presided over the government and the ruling party for much of the 1980s.

Although even relatively low-ranking Chinese officials are often given elaborate state funerals, Kong Quan (孔泉), the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said he knew of no plans to hold one for Zhao, a former Communist Party chief who was deposed for opposing the violent suppression of democracy protesters in 1989.

Kong, making the first public comments about Zhao's death, said that there would be no change in the Communist Party's official verdict that the 1989 protests were anti-government riots and that Zhao had sought to "split the party." After his purge, Zhao spent 16 years under house arrest. He died on Monday.

"The political disturbance and the problem of Zhao himself has already passed," Kong said. "What happened in 1989 has reached its conclusion. We will insist firmly and unshakably on our own road."

Zhao's family members sent e-mail and text messages to his friends and former colleagues, inviting them to attend a private memorial service at his spacious house in central Beijing. Plainclothes police officers surrounded the site and occupied intersections of nearby thoroughfares, but a steady stream of well-wishers were allowed to visit. There were no senior officials among them, relatives said.

Behind the bright red doors of the gray stone, double courtyard house where Zhao spent most of his time after losing power, white floral wreaths lined the walls. His picture was hung in the middle of a reception room, flanked by scrolls of calligraphy that eulogized him. His body was not present.

Zhao's closest longtime aide, Bao Tong (鮑彤), was not among those allowed to pay respects. The police intercepted Bao, the most senior official jailed for the 1989 democracy protests, when he and his wife tried to leave their residence to attend the memorial service, family members said.

His wife was knocked to the ground and taken to the hospital for treatment of an injured back, Bao's son said by telephone.

The cursory send-off poses some risks for the Communist Party.

Political analysts say President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) may have decided that any large-scale commemoration of Zhao's life may hint that the leadership is prepared to reassess the wisdom of the crackdown on June 4, 1989. The leadership may also have calculated that the loyalty Zhao commanded among a small number of former government officials and overseas dissidents is not shared by the general public and that they would not face popular pressure to give him a formal state funeral.

Meanwhile, the US hailed Zhao on Tuesday as a "champion of reform" and "man of moral courage."

The US State Department recollected how Zhao had gone to Tiananmen in 1989 to talk to protestors on their demands for democracy, praising him for his "unique style of leadership."

"Mr Zhao was a dynamic and forward-looking leader, a champion of reform at a time of momentous change in China," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.

"We well remember that in 1989, in Tiananmen Square, Mr Zhao went directly to the people of China, listened to their views, and engaged with them in a discussion about their desire for democracy," Boucher said.

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