Zhao Ziyang's Widow Won't Attend Funeral


2005.01.27
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Zhao Ziyang's daughter, Wang Yannan, receiving mourners at the family residence in Beijing. Photo: AFP/Goh Chai Hin

HONG KONG, Jan. 27--The outspoken leader of the Tiananmen Mothers, Ding Zilin, is under house arrest in Beijing to keep her away from the upcoming funeral of purged party chief Zhao Ziyang. Zhao's son Zhao Wujun meanwhile told Radio Free Asia (RFA) his mother will not attend Saturday's ceremony.

"I tell you, I've been pushing my request to attend Zhao's funeral with those plainclothes men outside my house every day," Ding, whose son was killed in the bloody 1989 crackdown on unarmed protesters in the streets around Tiananmen Square, told RFA's Mandarin service. "The answer is no."

Ding's group campaigns for recognition and compensation for relatives killed by People's Liberation Army troops in Beijing on the night of June 3, 1989 and in the days that followed.

Officials bar sensitive guests

Meanwhile, Zhao's fifth son, Zhao Wujun, confirmed to RFA that the government was likely to set limits on those allowed to attend the funeral, scheduled for 9:00 a.m. at the Babaoshan Crematorium, where many of China's most honored revolutionaries are memorialized.

"The entire guest list was provided by our family," Zhao told RFA. "As for limits, conditions, on who would be invited, of course they have always been there. We had to discuss this, to negotiate."

I've been pushing my request to attend Zhao's funeral with those plainclothes men outside my house every day. The answer is no.

Zhao Wujun said it remained unclear whether his father's former colleague, former Vice Premier Tian Jiyun, would attend the ceremony. He said the Zhao family had not communicated with the Tian family about this.

Zhao Wujun also said family members hadn't agreed whether to tell their mother that Zhao Ziyang had died. "This is a very difficult issue for us," he said, adding that she definitely wouldn't attend the ceremony on Saturday.

Another member of Zhao's family told RFA: "If there is anyone who didn't register to attend, they wouldn't know about this." Asked if the authorities were setting limits on who would be allowed to attend the funeral, he said: "Yes, some."

Apartment entrance blocked

Ding said she was under 24-hour surveillance by plainclothes security police. "They have a car parked outside the door to the building. They change shifts every two hours on rotation, two of them to a shift, keeping watch."

As for limits, conditions, on who would be invited, of course they have always been there.

Ding said security guards had blocked the entrance to her apartment when a friend had tried to visit her. Contrary to reports in some Hong Kong media, she had been unable to pay her respects to Zhao at his family home in Fuqiang Alley, she said.

"A friend went to sign the condolences book for me and to register to attend the funeral. Somebody else went again on my behalf today," said Ding, whose telephone was abruptly cut off amid loud interference during the interview.

Officials have not said which if any of China's top leaders will attend the funeral, nor what the official pronouncement will be on Zhao's life and work, which is bound up with the official verdict of "counterrevolutionary rebellion" regarding the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Calls for a reassessment of the Tiananmen massacre intensified with the 15th anniversary last year but have gone unheeded by China's new generation of leaders under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Zhao Wujun said the family had done their filial duty in putting forward Zhao Ziyang's view of the events leading up to his ouster. "What the official pronouncement will be, I have no idea," he said.

Crackdown on would-be mourners

Beijing-based independent journalist Gao Yu said around 1,700 names had already been approved to attend the ceremony, which is officially designated a "body farewell ceremony" and carries a lower status than a state funeral.

"Mostly, the people who were allowed to pay their respects will be able to go to the funeral," she told RFA.

The authorities have cracked down harshly on anyone attempting public mourning activities for Zhao, who has come to represent the hopes and aspirations of a wide range of people, including Tiananmen veterans, pro-democracy activists, reform-minded scholars, and China's growing body of petitioners against rampant government abuse of power.

Police have rounded up more than 100 petitioners who tried to pay their respects at Fuqiang Alley and severely beaten at least one man for wearing a white flower, a Chinese symbol of mourning.

Thousands have paid their respects to him publicly in Hong Kong, where he has become a symbol of the territory's hopes for political change since the handover to Chinese rule in 1997.

Zhao was stripped of all political posts in May 1989 for taking too liberal a line with the student-led demonstrators. He spent the last 15 years of his life under house arrest in Beijing.

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