Authorities-kin disagreement delays funeral of Zhao

Agence France Presse

Beijing, January 21:

Disagreement between the family of deposed leader Zhao Ziyang and the Chinese government over its official assessment on his legacy is holding up funeral arrangements, a family friend said today.

Zhao, who died in a Beijing hospital on Monday aged 85, was ousted for opposing the military crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed. The authorities are insisting on handling his funeral but have not told the family its formal assessment of him nor the scale of the planned ceremony, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“They want the family to agree to let them handle it, but won’t tell them the content of the assessment,” the source said. “They won’t let the family handle it privately either.” The State Council, China’s cabinet, announced yesterday it would hold “a ceremony to bid farewell to the remains” — effectively a funeral — but gave no indication whether top officials would attend. An official assessment of the life of a deceased communist party cadre is normally agreed with the family before the funeral and is important for the person’s reputation after their death.

A negative assessment could jeopardise their offsprings’ careers within the party or the government, although most of Zhao’s five children are in private business. The Chinese Communist Party has meanwhile told party members they must be consistent with the party’s position over Zhao’s legacy, another source said. “Zhao Ziyang has made contributions towards the party and the country. He made a mistake during the June 4 Tiananmen incident and his treatment by the party central committee was correct,” the source quoted a party department as saying.

Until his death, Zhao had been under house arrest for 15-and-a-half years in his classical Chinese courtyard home north of Tiananmen Square. China insists it was right to send tanks to crush student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and has defended its treatment of Zhao.

“Over the past 15 years since the incident, China’s development has proved that the final decision or judgment was right,” foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said on Tuesday.