Agence France Presse

Beijing, January 29:

Former Chinese party chief Zhao Ziyang was cremated in a tightly controlled funeral today as Beijing signalled it had no intention of changing its stance on the reformist leader purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

“Comrade Zhao Ziyang, who passed away on January 17 at the age of 85, was cremated at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing this morning,” the Xinhua news agency said.

The cremation followed a nearly three-hour funeral attended by an estimated 2,000 people, with hundreds of plainclothes police and government workers keeping a tight watch on proceedings.Shortly afterwards, China indicated it had no plans to change its assessment of Zhao, who was under house arrest for 15 years for sympathising with the pro-democracy movement, later crushed in a military crackdown.

“During the early period of reform and opening, Comrade Zhao Ziyang made useful contributions towards the party and the people,” Xinhua said. But it reiterated: “In the political turbulence during the Spring and Summer of 1989, comrade Zhao Ziyang made a grave mistake.” The funeral was entirely controlled by the government, said witnesses.