01/27/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Government sets Zhao's funeral for Saturday

The service will be private and without a guest list. Visitors are still under tight control.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The funeral of former Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang will take place on Saturday, January 29. A spokesperson for the family said that the ceremony should take place at 9 am at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing.

None the less, government and family are still wrangling over some details such as the assessment of the ousted leader, the official guest list and where his ashes should be buried.

Zhao died on January 17 after 16 years of house arrest. He was purged in 1989 after expressing his opposition to the military crackdown that brought to an end the pro-democracy student movement that had taken over Tiananmen Square. Only a few days earlier he had visited the students and expressed his sympathy for their cause.

The government wants the public assessment of Zhao to say he made a 'grave mistake' in his handling of the Tiananmen protests.  Zhao's family strongly objects to the demand.

The government also objects to an official guest list and cannot agree with the family where to place Zhao's ashes.

A public assessment and the official guest list are important in China to maintain a person's reputation after death.

To add a touch of mystery to the saga of Zhao's funeral, a mobile phone text message has been circulated to Zhao's relatives and friends.

The message read: "[We have] decided to bid farewell to Zhao Ziyang on Saturday. Please dial [telephone number omitted] for entry tickets and go to Zhao's residence to collect them. Please widely circulate this message."

Zhao's daughter, Ms Wang Yannan, denied the family had anything to do with the text message even though the number is that of a newly installed phone line at the Zhao residence.

Ms Wang added that there "was no need to call and register [for the funeral]. The number is useless". She also refused to speculate as to the motive of those who sent out the message.

People who paid their respects at the Zhao's residence were filmed and reports indicate that some mourners were questioned by security guards.

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