Sat, Jan 29, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Beijing tightens grip on arrangements for Zhao Ziyang funeral

AFP , BEIJING

China tightened controls yesterday over funeral arrangements for deposed leader Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), censoring the guest list, banning government cadres from attending and tearing down grassroots memorials.

"They're forbidding current government officials from all levels from attending," said a nephew of Zhao's, who declined to be named. "Some of them, especially from Henan, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces have asked for permission to attend. There are many restrictions on who can attend."

The reformist former Communist Party head was born in Henan Province and had worked as party boss in Guangdong and Sichuan.

Former government cadres, including many who worked with Zhao before he was purged for opposing the government's massacre of pro-democracy activists in 1989, have been scratched off the guest list, the nephew said.

Another relative said even those on the approved list were not all receiving passes to get into the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing where the funeral is scheduled to be held this morning.

"We don't know how many passes the government has handed out. They frequently don't issue the passes to people on the list," the relative said. "We estimate less than 50 percent of the passes have been handed out and perhaps not even 10 percent have been issued."

The hall where the funeral is expected to be held can hold about 1,000 people, but relatives said they did not know how many would be allowed in.

Chinese authorities on Thursday also stopped accepting new names for the list, preventing former government officials who rushed to Beijing from Guangdong and Sichuan for the funeral from participating, the nephew said.

The Chinese government wants the funeral to be a low-key event, fearing Zhao's death could spark the kind of public mourning seen in 1989 following the death of his predecessor, reformist party chief Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦).

The government is also wary of the occasion turning into a rallying point for pro-democracy activists, dissidents and families of victims of the massacre, in which as many as 1,000 people died.

Telephones at Zhao's home were tapped and government officials were stationed there, the relative said.

"There's no privacy," she said. "It's adding pressure to the family."

Several dissidents, including Zhao's former aide Bao Tong (鮑彤), remain under house arrest to block them from attending the funeral. Their phones have been cut.

Ding Zilin (丁子霖), leader of Tiananmen Mothers whose group consists of women who lost their children in the crackdown and are seeking an official reassessment, could barely finish her sentence before loud interference interrupted a call to her home yesterday.

Zhao's admirers, including elderly cadres, have put up memorials to mark his death in his native village in Henan Province and in Guangzhou, Zhao's nephew said.

"An altar was put up three times in the village where he was born in Huaxian County. Local officials allowed it after the first one was put up. They were later ordered to take it down, but it went up again three times," the nephew said. "People have very strong feelings for him."

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