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Former Chinese Communist Party Leader Zhao Laid to Rest in Beijing - 2005-01-29


China has held funeral services for purged Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang nearly two weeks after his death. Mr. Zhao spent 15 years under house arrest for advocating reform during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations. Officials again used the day to criticize Mr. Zhao.

Police shooed away onlookers who braved the subfreezing temperatures outside Beijing's Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery hoping to pay tribute to the late reformer Zhao Ziyang before his cremation Saturday. Security was tight because officials fear his death on January 17th might spark anti-government protests.

Mr. Zhao was purged as party leader in 1989 for sympathizing with pro-democracy activists who led an ill-fated protest at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The government had imposed a blackout on news of Mr. Zhao's death and only released his official obituary Saturday. In it, Mr. Zhao was praised for helping economic reforms, but criticized for so-called "serious mistakes" during the 1989 protests.

Saturday's cremation and ceremony were modest in a country where high-ranking Communist Party officials are normally given elaborate state funerals. The only people invited to view the flag-draped coffin had been carefully screened by the party.

Those not allowed to pay their respects complained of efforts to suppress Mr. Zhao's importance to China.

One such mourner, standing outside the cemetery, criticized the government's handling of this.

He says people are not allowed to express their feelings and he thanks foreign news sources for providing information not available from state-sponsored media.

Aside from a few angry scenes and minor scuffles outside the cemetery, there were no signs of the protests the government feared. Many young people polled on the streets of Beijing say they have no idea who Zhao Ziyang was.

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