China steps up controls ahead of Zhao Ziyang’s funeral

Agence France Presse

Beijing, January 28:

China today tightened controls over funeral arrangements for deposed leader Zhao Ziyang, censoring the guest list, banning government cadres from attending and tearing down grass-roots memorials. “They’re forbidding current government officials from all levels from attending,” said a nephew of Zhao, 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 in 1989 for opposing the government’s massacre against pro-democracy activists, 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 tomorrow 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,” said the relative. “We estimate less than 50 per cent of the passes have been handed out and perhaps not even 10 per cent 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 yesterday 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. Telephones at Zhao’s home were tapped and government officials were stationed there, said the relative.