BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese mourners Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of ousted Communist leader Zhao Ziyang under tight surveillance by the authorities, which the reformer’s top aide derided as “a mockery of the rule of law”.
Zhao is a revered figure among Chinese human rights defenders, in part for opposing the use of force to quell the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, when hundreds of unarmed civilians — by some estimates, more than 1,000 – were killed.
He was later deposed as premier and Communist Party general secretary, and forced to live under house arrest for the next 16 years until his death on January 17, 2005, aged 85.
Outside Zhao’s former home in Beijing, where his ashes are kept along with those of his wife, groups of mourners were seen entering with baskets of flowers, watched by about a dozen security forces. Foreign journalists were prevented from entering.
Besides opposing Deng Xiaoping’s imposition of martial law, Zhao was respected for carrying out economic reforms in the 1980s that created opportunities for many people.
Despite his contributions to China’s economy, Zhao was not given a proper funeral as is generally afforded former leaders, and instead has been continually blamed for siding with the students.
Zhao’s son-in-law Wang Zihua, in an interview with VOA, voiced the family’s hopes that they would one day be able to give him a proper burial.
In an op-ed published earlier this week by US-funded Radio Free Asia, Bao Tong, an outspoken longtime aide to Zhao, condemned the authorities’ practice of monitoring would-be mourners and deciding for themselves which of China’s leaders were to be remembered.
“Of course, this is utterly ridiculous and makes a mockery of the rule of law,” wrote Bao, who was purged along with Zhao and has spent much of the last 25 years either in jail, under house arrest, or facing other restrictions.