Ousted China Leader Remembered, Security Tight

January 17, 2007 Updated: January 17, 2007

BEIJING—Mourners paid their respects to Zhao Ziyang on Wednesday, the second anniversary of the death of the disgraced Chinese Communist Party chief purged in 1989 for opposing the army crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters.

Residents carried flowers as they entered the Zhao family's traditional courtyard home, where he spent more than 15 years under house arrest before his death on Jan. 17, 2005.

“I come every year,” said one man carrying a yellow bouquet as he approached the door.

“He was a kind-hearted and thoughtful old man,” said the visitor, who, under the gaze of several plainclothes police, declined to give his name.

Underscoring the sensitivity that still surrounds the man Party leaders feared could become a rallying point for reformists, the narrow lane where Zhao lived was crowded with security personnel, who videotaped those coming and going.

Despite regulations that took effect on Jan. 1 saying that foreign reporters need only the consent of the person they are interviewing in order to conduct interviews, journalists were denied entry to Zhao's home.

His family had agreed to a visit, but on arrival reporters were greeted at the red wooden doors of his compound by security in plainclothes who said, “foreign journalists cannot enter”.

But security personnel outside the house of Zhao's onetime top aide, Bao Tong, allowed a Reuters reporter in.

Bao said that he would not try to visit Zhao's house this year, as last year state security officials surrounded him when he attempted to leave his apartment block and pushed his wife to the ground, hurting her back.

“I think that the best way to remember Zhao Ziyang is for every citizen to stand up for their rights, to push the Communist Party to move forward, to exert pressure,” he told Reuters.

“That way Zhao's wishes will be fulfilled,” Bao said. “Remember him each of the 365 days of the year.”

But the lack of any public mourning for Zhao and the security surrounding his house indicate the nervousness the Communist Party still feels about his residual influence.

He was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, when he went to Tiananmen Square to plead with student protesters to leave. The next day, the regime declared martial law.

Zhao's opposition to the Party's decision to send in the army to crush the demonstrations made him a symbol for activists and reformers.

But the Party has tried to erase him from public memory, blanking out his role in economic reforms that turned China from economic backwater to powerhouse and ignoring the anniversary of his death.

Edited by The Epoch Times.