Hundreds in China Gather to Mark Death of Former Communist Leader

January 19, 2015 3:59 pm Last Updated: January 19, 2015 9:02 pm

Jan. 17 marked the 10th year of the anniversary of the death of former Chinese Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang, a Party leader who was crucial for shepherding China out of Mao Zedong’s disastrous economic policies, and who broke ranks with other leaders to sympathize with protesting students during the 1989 democracy movement.

Hundreds of citizens visited Zhao’s former residence in Beijing to memorialize him recently, including several retired senior politicians. The old Zhao family residence was filled with flower baskets and poems of mourning written by the public.

Zhao is most well known for becoming a scapegoat during the Party’s power struggles around the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and was eventually ousted by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. After being ousted, he was placed under house arrest, where he remained until he died of a stroke in Beijing in 2005.

Visitors filled the yard of former residence of Zhao Ziyang on Jan. 17, 2015. Hundreds of citizens visited former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang's former residence in Beijing to memorialize his 10th death anniversary on Jan. 17, 2015. (Screenshot/Weibo.com)
Visitors filled the yard of former residence of Zhao Ziyang on Jan. 17, 2015. Hundreds of citizens visited former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang’s former residence in Beijing to memorialize his 10th death anniversary on Jan. 17, 2015. (Screenshot/Weibo.com)

The Internet user “Shaoxing advisor in Beijing” wrote on Weibo, a Chinese platform like Twitter, that “over 600 people arrived… to pay homage to Mr. Zhao Ziyang, who passed away 10 years ago.”

Retired high ranking Party politicians that came to Zhao’s former residence on Saturday included Li Rui, a 99-year-old vocal advocate of democratic reform in China, and Zhao’s former aide Du Daozheng, 93, currently president of the Chinese political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu.

More than 10 Hong Kong and overseas reporters also attended, according to Beijing resident Hao Chen, who was on site. Mr. Hao told Epoch Times in a telephone interview that several police vehicles Zhao’s former house was monitored by police cars on the day, but police didn’t prevent people from visiting Zhao’s house.

Despite it being ten years after Zhao’s death, his family has still not been able to properly bury his ashes—apparently for fear that the site would become a kind of rallying point for those with pro-democracy sympathies, inside and outside the Party.

They actively came to communicate for the first time in many years. It never happened before, and their attitude was very good. We indeed feel the changes.
— Wang Zhihua, Zhao's son-in-law

But there may yet be a chance for that, said Zhao’s son-in-law Wang Zhihua. “They actively came to communicate for the first time in many years. It never happened before, and their attitude was very good. We indeed feel the changes,” Wang said.

An official from the General Office told the family to be patient, and promised to arrange the burial when “the time is right.”

But despite the widespread sympathy for Zhao Ziyang, both inside and outside the Party, for now it’s unlikely that the political verdict on him will change, said Yang Jisheng, chief editor of Chinese magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, in an interview with Apple Daily. Yang said that as long as the Communist Party’s definition of the June 4th movement, that it was a “counterrevolutionary rebellion,” doesn’t change, the verdict on Zhao won’t either.