01/28/2005, 00.00
ChINA
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Hundreds expected at Zhao's funeral

Police bar some friends from leaving home, beat up mourners.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A thousand mourners are expected at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery for the funeral of former Communist leader Zhao Ziyang.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to confirm the funeral date but relatives and friends received an invitation to what is expected to be a low-key ceremony 9 am tomorrow.

After much bickering with the family, the authorities agreed that mourners who had visited Zhao's home to pay their respects could attend the funeral. No eulogy is expected.

Xinhua news agency is expected to publish a simple summary of Zhao's career omitting any reference to the 1989 student movement.

Zhao Ziyang, who died on January 17, was Secretary-General of the Communist Party in 1989 when university students launched a pro-democracy movement and took over Tiananmen Square.

During the political crisis that ensued, he sympathised with student protesters and opposed the use of force against them. For this, he was sacked and spent the last 16 years under house arrest.

Among those who are likely to attend the funeral, there are former Vice-Premier Tian Jiyun, who sent a wreath in Zhao's memory, retired party elder Ren Zhongyi, former National People's Congress Vice-Chairman Fei Xiaotong and former head of the propaganda department of the Communist Party Gong Yuzhi. Former Guangdong Governor Zhu Senlin and former Guangzhou Mayor Li Ziliu are also expected. Ms Wang Lingyun, mother of former student leader Wang Dan, is also likely to be there.

However, it is unlikely that Zhao's former top aide, Bao Tong, and former military doctor Jiang Yanyong—known for blowing the whistle on SARS and for demanding the reopening of the Tiananmen file—will be allowed to attend. Both have been barred from leaving their homes since Zhao's death.

The government has deployed security forces in greater numbers to prevent the funeral from turning into a rallying point for China's dissidents and pro-democracy movement.

The authorities have detained dozens of people—some have been severely beaten—for trying to mark the death of former leader Zhao Ziyang. They were among about 60 people who pinned white paper flowers to their clothes, a traditional symbol of mourning.

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