China Beats, Arrests Zhao Mourners Amid Stalemate Over Funeral

A mourner stands before a large portrait of Zhao Ziyang in Hong Kong's Victoria Park, Jan. 19 January 2005. Many in Hong Kong see Zhao as a symbol of the territory's own struggle for political change. Photo: AFP/Mike Clarke

HONG KONG—Authorities in the Chinese capital have beaten and seriously injured a man for wearing a white flower in mourning for late ousted Party leader Zhao Ziyang, and they have arrested hundreds of others, Beijing residents said.

A petitioner from the central province of Henan was beaten after he wore a white mourning flower on a visit to the complaints office of the National People's Congress last week, where hundreds of people line up daily seeking redress for grievances against the government.

"We saw him after they'd beaten him," a bystander at the complaints office told RFA's Mandarin service. "His eye was hanging out of its socket. But no one did anything...There were dozens of them beating a single guy," said the man, surnamed Yang, from the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

'Hundreds' of arrests

Police and armed forces had been warned to halt any public displays of mourning around Zhao's house, and police and security were reinforced around several of Beijing's universities, sources said. University lecturers were deployed on shifts to prevent mourning activities among the student population.

Sources among Beijing's petitioners told RFA that hundreds of petitioners had been arrested after visiting Zhao's house to pay their respects since the former Communist Party general secretary died Jan. 17.

More than 100 of them didn't return to their living quarters in the petitioner village, so definitely something bad must have happened to them.

"Yes, I can confirm that," a Beijing petitioner surnamed Ma told RFA. "Around Jan. 23, more than 100 people went to Zhao's house, setting out from the petitioner village. [They] didn't return to their living quarters in the petitioner village, so definitely something bad must have happened to them."

"They've also been cracking down on the village itself. Several hundred people have been arrested from there, for going to Zhao's house to pay their respects," Ma said.

Meanwhile, uncertainty continued over funeral arrangements for Zhao, who was stripped of all official posts and held under house arrest for the last 15 years of his life after he took a sympathetic stance toward the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square.

Conflict with family over funeral

Former Beijing Economic Weekly deputy editor Gao Yu said Internet-based reports indicated that Premier Wen Jiabao was in negotiations with relatives and China's top leaders about the funeral—which it wants to be respectful enough to satisfy the family—without giving Zhao a prominent place in the pantheon of deceased former leaders.

They said that it was Jiang Zemin who wouldn't accept the arrangements.

"They said that it was Jiang Zemin who wouldn't accept the arrangements," Gao said. "But Jiang has retired now. He's just an ordinary Party member. All the power is in your hands. What are you going to do about it?"

Internet reports also said that when mourners tried to pay respects to Zhao on Monday, all the wreaths, portraits, and tables had been cleared away, and none of his family was at his former residence.

Family withdraws from Zhao residence

"I spoke to Zhao's relatives, and they said that everybody was completely exhausted and were having a rest," Gao said. "Also, some of them had had to return to work."

Zhao's family want his funeral to be held Saturday but said authorities feared a large turnout, Gao said.

China last week announced it would not hold memorial services for Zhao but only a "farewell activity for the body," which is effectively a funeral.

But his family disagree with the government over the official assessment of Zhao as a former official who made a "grave mistake." They also disagree over the guest list and where his ashes should be placed.


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