Thirty years after the sudden death of ousted liberal premier Hu Yaobang sparked weeks of student-led protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Hu’s family returned to his ancestral home to visit his grave, closely watched by state security police, a Hong Kong-based rights group reported on Monday.
Some 20 Hu family members and relatives visited the graves of Hu and his wife Li Zhao at Gongqingcheng in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi on Monday morning, under close watch by the authorities, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China reported on its website.
“Hu Yaoping, a relative of Hu Yaobang, visited the cemetery this morning to pay respects to Hu Yaobang and his wife Li Zhao,” the report said.
It said Hu's daughter Li Heng and her husband Admiral Liu Xiaojiang were advised to “keep a low profile” by the authorities, and had paid their respects earlier instead.
“They didn’t go to Gongqingcheng to pay their respects, as they had already paid a visit in advance,” the Center said.
The report said the cell phones of Hu’s sons Hu Deping and He Dehua were switched off on Monday.
“The Information Center was informed that Hu Deping will leave Gongqingcheng tomorrow morning, so relatives will still participate in some seminars and exhibitions this afternoon and night,” it said.
“The authorities deliberately kept a low profile [but] there are still dozens of public security guards outside the hotel today, and the atmosphere is very tense,” the report said.
It said Hu’s son- and daughters-in-law also paid their respects to Hu, alongside his grandson and relatives still living in Gongqingcheng.
He Deping is a former deputy minister of the United Front Work Department of the ruling Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference advisory body.
No state media coverage
The low-key memorial event was in sharp contrast to the spontaneous outpouring of public mourning on Tiananmen Square following Hu's April 22 state funeral in 1989.
Popular among ordinary Chinese for rehabilitating millions purged during the 1957 Anti-Rightist Movement and for righting some of the wrongs of the disastrous Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Hu was mourned by thousands on Tiananmen Square in May 1989.
The demonstration of public grief and outrage sparked the student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, which ended in the Tiananmen massacre in early June that year. It also triggered the fall of Hu Yaobang's successor, Zhao Ziyang.
Liberal members of the Communist Party elite also held a memorial at Hu’s former residence in Beijing onFriday.
Among those paying their respects were former editors of the now-shuttered liberal political theory magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, including founding editor Du Daozheng.
There was no coverage of the anniversary in China’s state media, in contrast to several articles praising him and public memorials to him in the years before President Xi Jinping began to consolidate his grip on power.
The government styled the 1989 student-led democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary rebellion," and the families of victims and pro-democracy campaigners have focused their efforts on a re-evaluation of that verdict.
Public memorials and discussions of the events of June 1989 are banned in mainland China, with activists who seek to commemorate the bloodshed often detained, with veteran dissidents placed under police surveillance or detention during each anniversary.
In Hong Kong, more than 100 people ran 30 kilometers through the city, shouting “Never forget June 4th!” to mark the anniversary at the weekend, leaving white flowers symbolizing mourning outside Beijing’s Central Liaison Office.
Richard Choi of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organized the event, said more than 100 runners took part.
“Hong Kong has played a very important role in the struggle [to reevaluate the Tiananmen protests and massacre] in the past three decades,” Choi said.
“Hong Kong still hosts the only free and legal tribute to the [massacre] on Chinese soil,” he said. “We believe in the people of Hong Kong people; that they will not forget.”
Choi said the Alliance is still working repair the June 4th Memorial Hall, which was recently vandalized, and that the venue will reopen by the end of this month.
Reported by Shi Shan for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Lau Siu-fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.