BEIJING – Relatives of Zhao Ziyang, China's Communist Party chief ousted for opposing the 1989 army crackdown on democracy protesters, will not publicly mark this month's first anniversary of his death, sources close to the family said on Tuesday.
A former policeman announced plans to hold private commemorations at his Beijing home on Jan. 9, days before the Jan. 17 anniversary of Zhao's death, but security forces were expected to prevent democracy campaigners from attending.
China's leadership fears that commemorations could evoke memories of the massacre of Tiananmen Square protesters and spark unrest by jobless workers and poor farmers envious of wealthy urban residents.
“The family has decided against holding any public commemorative activities,” one source told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
A second source said: “The children are business people and don't want too much trouble with the authorities.”
Zhao's successors kept him under house arrest for 15 years until his death in January 2005. But the man now seen as an icon of reform is still popular among liberal intellectuals and families of the thousands who died in the bloody crackdown.
Authorities remain nervous about the residual influence of Zhao, who as premier in the 1980s launched market reforms that transformed China from a centrally planned backwater into a fledgling economic powerhouse.
Li Jinping, 41, who is said to be close to Zhao's ailing 87-year-old widow, plans to hold private commemorations at his Beijing home, which can accommodate about 100 people.
The one-time textile factory worker and former policeman said he plans to decorate an altar with white flowers, light red candles and give a speech.
“It'll be a good opportunity to raise the people's awareness about freedom, democracy and human rights,” Li told Reuters.
Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who made a name by defending political dissidents, religious activists and disgruntled citizens, and Qi Zhiyong, whose left leg was amputated after he was hit by a soldier's bullet during the Tiananmen assault, said they had both received invitations.
China has rejected calls for a reassessment of the Tiananmen protests, which were labelled subversive, saying Zhao had split the party and made “serious mistakes” in handling the demonstrations.
But Zhao's political ghost continues to haunt the party, which has monopolised power since the 1949 revolution.
Analysts said a revision of the official line that the 1989 student-led protests were counter-revolutionary was unlikely in the near future.
Such a step could split the Party leadership and trigger a power struggle. Some top leaders involved in or who benefited from the massacre are still alive and influential.
Additional reporting by The Epoch Times
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