Police Hold Mourners Ahead of China Dissident Funeral

November 3, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: November 3, 2007 12:00 am

BEIJING—Chinese police on Saturday prevented some mourners from attending a funeral for a dissident jailed for his part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, his lawyer, and a friend said.

A philosopher regarded as one of China's leading intellectuals, Bao Zunxin was an associate research fellow at the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a hot-bed of reformist ideas under the former Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang.

Bao argued against the imposition of martial law in Beijing before the army crackdown and tried to organise intellectuals into an independent organisation. He was released from jail early in 1992 and died last week, aged 70.

“I was not able to go. I'm at the police station,” his lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told Reuters by mobile phone.

“They did not say why I or several others could not go. It's instructions from above,” he added. “The authorities probably worried that a lot of very sensitive people would show up for old Bao's funeral.”

Veteran dissident Liu Xiaobo said many people had been prevented from leaving their houses to be at the funeral, but still estimated around 200 people showed up.

“Bao never gave up on his beliefs. He was involved in protest right up the last few months of his life,” Liu told Reuters.

Bao was one of the signatories on an open letter to the government in August calling for more freedoms ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Journalist Dai Qing, one of China's most celebrated dissident writers and another 1989 protester, praised Bao's modesty.

“He only knew how to get things done. He never put on airs,” she wrote.

Former magazine editor and academic Bao was arrested in July 1989 and sentenced to five years in jail on Jan 26, 1991.

The day after his trial for “agitating counter-revolutionary propaganda”, the Communist party mouthpiece, Xinhua described Bao as repentant.

“During his imprisonment, Bao introspected his criminal acts, felt deep regret for the harm he had done to the society and showed his repentance to the government on several occasions,”, Xinhua said at the time.

The People's Liberation Army massacred hundreds, if not thousands of students around Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The regime said the events of 1989 are a closed subject and normally refuses to discuss them any further.