Beijing monitors Zhao's mourners


Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 5

Authorities are recording the names of anyone visiting a makeshift memorial at the Beijing home of ousted Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), who died this week, a relative said yesterday.

"Even more road blocks and police," said a cellphone text message from a family member who requested anonymity. "People are led into a small coffee shop to have their names recorded before they are let in."

Zhao, 85, lived under house arrest for 15 years after being purged for expressing support for pro-democracy demonstrators who occupied Tiananmen square in May 1989, shortly before Chinese troops killed hundreds, maybe thousands, of the protesters.

In the past week, mourners have been trickling into a Beijing alley to pay respects at the villa where Zhao spent his last years.

Until yesterday, security had been inconsistent. Officials turned some away without giving reasons. Others were let through without question.

Zhao's family said earlier this week that a memorial service at Babaoshan Cemetery -- the main burial site for China's revolutionary heroes -- was being planned.

"No date has been set," Zhao's son-in-law Wang Zhihua said yesterday.

"We are still going over some important details with the government," he said. He didn't elaborate.

The issue of official mourning for Zhao is sensitive for the government, which does not want to promote sympathy for a figure accused of endangering communist rule.

Wang also said the family had not received any visits or condolences from President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) or Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), but had received messages from the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party.

On Friday, thousands in Hong Kong held a candlelight vigil for Zhao, bowing three times toward his portrait in keeping with Chinese tradition and observing a minute of silence.

"He's a hero of the Chinese people. We will always miss him," said teacher Ng Ping-lam, 56.

Wang said he had heard there was a memorial in Hong Kong but didn't know the details. "It is difficult for us to get news from abroad now," he said.

In China, the only official report of Zhao's death was a two-sentence dispatch by the official Xinhua News Agency that appeared in newspapers and on Web sites.

It wasn't broadcast on radio or television, and many Chinese might still be unaware of Zhao's passing.