After the passing on Jan. 17 of Zhao Ziyang, the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Tiananmen Square has been placed under tight security.
Public attention, both in China and overseas, has focused on whether the citizens of mainland China will be permitted to commemorate Zhao in public and what standard of memorial service the CCP will permit. Zhao’s death is a sensitive issue that is influencing the current political scene in China.
Zhao, who was 85, had been admitted to the hospital for treatment several times due to long-term conditions of his respiratory and cardio-vascular systems. Recently, the state of his illness worsened. Shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 17, according to members of his family, his heart stopped. His family members were gathered at his bedside at the time.
The news that Zhao had died has sent a swift ripple through the Chinese communities around the world. The CCP authorities issued a brief announcement of his death. On the surface, the atmosphere in Beijing appears to be peaceful, but circumstances seem to indicate that the CCP is concerned that the political situation might get out of control.
The CCP handled the news of Zhao’s illness and death while the domestic media remained silent. Just four hours before his death, the government reported that Zhao’s condition was stable. At 10 o’clock, on the morning of Zhao’s death, the CCP interfered with CNN’s signal in China, interrupting it for 15 minutes, preventing the Chinese populace from seeing the reports of Zhao’s death.
After Zhao’s death, only the CCP authorized press Xinhua News Agency issued a short news report. Other media, Chinese Central TV, the Chinese Central Broadcast Station and The Beijing Evening News , didn’t mention his death.
Reporters for Epoch Times conducted a telephone survey of residents in Beijing, Sichuan Province, and Guangdong Province. When asked if they knew of Zhao’s death, all replied that they did not.
According to reports from Hong Kong Wireless TV, security was increased at the building for high-ranking officials in Beijing Hospital where Zhao was staying when Zhao’s condition became critical. Uniformed staff patrolled the area, and private cars bearing military plates came in and out.
Well-informed sources in China report that the authorities have sent many plainclothes officers to guard Tiananmen Square, and the People’s Liberation Army has been put on alert. At some locations, soldiers have been ordered to sit in their vehicles to await orders.
In the past, the deaths of Chou En-lai, premier of the CCP, and Hu Yaobang, general secretary of the CCP, brought about the April 5th Tiananmen Incident and the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre, respectively. Zhao’s name has always been connected with the June 4th event, so Beijing is carefully monitoring the people’s response to Zhao’s death.
Security outside Zhao’s residence, located in Fuqiang alley, intensified noon of Jan. 17. All vehicles coming from outside the road were not allowed to pass. Cars belonging to the Public Security Department were parked outside the front gate of Zhao’s residence. Increasing numbers of undercover policemen and public security officers patrolled outside and sent away foreign reporters who had come to conduct interviews. According to a reliable source, individuals who are connected with Zhao and live in Shanghai have been sent to a hotel in Beijing by special transportation and are forbidden to have any outside contacts.
Because of Zhao’s death, iJet Travel Risk Management in the United States issued travel advice for China. The report cautions that pro-democracy supporters in China may hold protests or commemorative activities. The protests may be peaceful, but authorities may take actions to disperse protesters. The organization also warns that if there’s disagreement inside the CCP about how to treat Zhao’s death, social conflict may ensue.