Police stop mourners attending funeral of Jiang Zongcao, wife of former top CCP aide

Journalist Gao Yu says she is told not to attend by local police, as friends are prevented from sending messages.
By Gao Feng for RFA Mandarin
2022.08.25
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Police stop mourners attending funeral of Jiang Zongcao, wife of former top CCP aide Jiang Zongcao and her husband, Bao Tong
Bao Tong

Chinese police on Thursday prevented mourners from attending the funeral of Jiang Zongcao, the wife of former top ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aide Bao Tong, who has been a vocal critic of the regime for decades.

Jiang died of cancer on Aug. 21 at the age of 90, and her memorial service was scheduled for the morning of Aug. 25 at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.

She was married to Bao Tong, who before the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests worked as director of the Office of Political Reform of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and was a key ally of late disgraced premier Zhao Ziyang.

Bao, 89, who served a seven-year jail term for "revealing state secrets and counter-revolutionary propagandizing," is a long-time contributor of commentary on a wide range of Chinese and international issues for RFA Mandarin, is believed to be currently in hospital in Beijing.

Independent journalist Gao Yu said she and many other well-known dissidents close to the couple had been prevented from attending the ceremony for Jiang.

"The police came to visit me at 10.00 p.m. [on Aug. 24] to tell me that the higher-ups in Chaoyang district police department had told them to come and tell me that I couldn't go [to the memorial service]," Gao told RFA on Thursday.

She said police had imposed a limit of 30 people on attendees, and that at least half of that number was made up of officials from Jiang's former work unit, the Central Compilation Bureau under the CCP Central Committee.

"There are four smaller funeral halls at Babaoshan, and this was held at the Mei Hall at 11.00 a.m.," Gao said. "After neglecting to communicate anything ... [the authorities] suddenly announced 14 people could go, of whom five were relatives, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter."

"Friends weren't able to get in at all, and there were armed police guarding the gates with a list," she said. "If you weren't on the list, you couldn't get in."

The funeral for Jiang Zongcao, wife of Bao Tong, was held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing on August 25, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist
The funeral for Jiang Zongcao, wife of Bao Tong, was held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing on August 25, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist
'No way to attend'

Gao said she recalls interviewing Jiang at the time of Bao's imprisonment.

"I was in awe, because she was so highly cultivated in both Chinese and Western cultures," Gao said. "She was a translator."

"She was about the same age as Bao, maybe a few months older. They had both gotten very thin in recent years due to cancer," she said. "They spent Lunar New Year at home together, but since then, neither has been out of hospital."

Ji Feng, a former leader of the 1989 student movement, said the authorities also insisted on approving traditional elegies written in the form of poetic couplets by mourners.

"There was no way to attend, either online or in person," Ji told RFA. "You couldn't even submit an elegiac couplet, either physically or online, particularly if it was signed by someone like me, or Gao Yu."

"It would just be blocked [online]," he said. "You could post it to Twitter, but nobody in China follows Twitter."

Independent political scientist Wu Zuolai said Bao was among the last surviving figures in Zhao Ziyang's liberal faction of the CCP.

"These people had a lot of seniority, so the authorities daren't lock them up indefinitely, so they make things difficult for them to do stuff like take part in gatherings," Wu told RFA. "It's a form of soft persecution."

Fear of elderly people

Wu said the CCP couldn't afford to allow public mourning of anyone linked to Zhao, who fell from power after late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping decided his line on the student protests was too conciliatory, and who has largely been expunged from the official record.

"They fear an expansion of influence [of that faction]," he said. "For example, if they let these people attend, then a lot of people would take part ... it would be huge."

But he said the fear was overblown.

"These elderly people may have a certain amount of influence, but it's not as if they could issue a call [to rebellion] that would shake the CCP," he said.

Bao and Jiang met while studying at the Shanghai Nanyang High School, where she was an active member of the communist underground who had been expelled from other schools for organizing demonstrations, according to a 2009 report in the Financial Times.

It was she who persuaded Bao to join the CCP in 1949, the same year that Mao Zedong proclaimed the new People's Republic of China from Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1.

Two years after Bao's jailing, in 1994, she made a global appeal for his release on the Chinese-language service of the Voice of America, risking official recrimination because of a marked deterioration in his health in prison.

In 2005, Jiang sustained a fracture following a confrontation with security guards who prevented the couple from carrying out mourning activities for Zhao on the anniversary of his death.

Jiang was shoved to the ground by unidentified security officers as they set off for Zhao's Beijing home to attend a vigil for the former CCP chief. She sustained a fracture to one of her vertebrae, requiring bed rest for three months.

In 2015, she described being left at home around the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre as Bao was taken suddenly out of town at the age of 80, as part of a citywide clampdown on political dissents that occurs annually around June 4.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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