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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 03:14 GMT
Chinese media muted on Zhao death
Zhao Ziyang, 19 May 1989, addressing the students in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Zhao's tearful appeal to students presaged his downfall
The death of purged Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang has received only limited coverage in Chinese media.

Zhao died on Monday, aged 85. He was sacked as party leader in 1989 for opposing the use of force to quash the Tiananmen Square students protests.

Tuesday newspapers carried brief references to the death, while China's main TV and radio stations did not report the news.

The authorities fear his death might spark off new reformist demonstrations.

Beijing has recently stepped up security in Tiananmen Square and around Zhao's house to try to prevent any public commemoration of his life.

China is also facing calls to reassess its suppression of the 1989 protests.

Zhao's secretary Bao Tong led the calls, backed by other pro-democracy activists and Taiwan. Japan urged China to move towards democratisation.

TV and radio coverage 'barred'

China's early Tuesday morning newspapers carried only brief news items to the death of Zhao.

The death of reformist Communist leader Zhao Ziyang, purged for opposing the 1989 military crackdown, should inspire the new leadership into a rethink over the bloody massacre
Peter Wei, Hong Kong, China

Under the headline "Comrade Zhao Ziyang passes away", four or five lines briefly referred to his illness and death.

The BBC's Daniel Griffiths in says that apart from a short statement by the official Xinhua news agency, this appears to be the first real mention of Zhao's death in the Chinese media.

Xinhua instructed domestic TV and radio not to carry the item.

There had been many grieving postings on internet bulletin boards. "Time will vindicate him," said one. "We will miss you forever," said another.

All were deleted speedily by chatroom monitors.

Reform urged

Zhao had been under house arrest since the crushing of the pro-democracy protests in the square almost 16 years ago.

A man tries to stop Chinese tanks in 1989
15 April: Reformist leader Hu Yaobang dies
22 April: Hu's memorial service. Thousands call for faster reforms
13 May: Students begin hunger strike as power struggle grips Communist Party
15 May: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits China
19 May: Zhao makes tearful appeal to students in Tiananmen Square to leave
20 May: Martial law declared in Beijing
3-4 June: Security forces clear the square, killing hundreds

Zhao, who reached the top after urging bold economic reforms, was removed after he opposed using military force against the demonstrators.

He was never again seen in public after 19 May 1989, when he went to Tiananmen Square and made a tearful appeal for demonstrators to leave.

Hours after his death, Zhao's former secretary issued a statement attacking the Chinese authorities.

Mr Bao, who spent seven years in prison and now lives under government surveillance, said Zhao's isolation was a "showcase of shame" for Chinese justice and the Communist Party.

The party's "attempts to conceal the truth about the past only serve to reveal their weaknesses and their shamelessness", Mr Bao said.

China almost never commented on Zhao, who had once been expected to succeed Deng Xiaoping as the country's paramount leader.

The deaths of other liberal leaders in China have tapped latent public frustration at the country's slow pace of democratic reform.

Protests flared when former Premier Zhou Enlai died in 1976, and pro-reform party leader Hu Yaobang's death in 1989 sparked the Tiananmen Square protests that ended Zhao's political era.

Why Zhao was seen as a symbol of democratic reform


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