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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 09:56 GMT
China stands firm on Tiananmen
Democracy activists mourning Zhao in Hong Kong, 15 Jan
Mourners in Hong Kong came out to show their respects for Zhao
China has ruled out reassessing its handling of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, following the death of ousted Communist leader Zhao Ziyang.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said events after the crackdown proved China's decision at the time was right.

Security around Tiananmen Square and near Zhao's home has been tightened, amid fears his death could spark new pro-reform demonstrations.

Zhao was sacked for opposing the use of force against the Tiananmen protesters.

China's official media has been muted in its coverage of the death of Zhao, who spent the last 15 years under house arrest.

It is not clear what type of funeral he will be allowed, and Mr Kong said he knew nothing about any funerary plans.

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

Mr Kong told a press briefing on Tuesday that China stood by its actions during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, in which hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were killed by armed police and soldiers.

"We had a verdict on the political disturbance in the late 80s and on Zhao for a long time. In the last 15 years, China's fast growth has shown that the verdict was correct," Mr Kong said.

"We will insist firmly and unshakeably on our own road. Nothing will be changed," he added.

Mr Kong's comments signalled there would not be any re-evaluation of Zhao's record, according to a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim.

But that has not prevented many people expressing their sympathy at the deposed leader's passing.

Zhao's family set up a mourning hall in his house, and a handful of mourners were seen carrying flowers as they entered the compound on Tuesday.

But his former secretary, Bao Tong, was prevented from leaving his home by plainclothes agents.

Family members said Mr Bao's 73-year-old wife was pushed to the ground and suffered a chest fracture during the incident.

Reform urged

In Hong Kong, dozens of mourners laid a wreath at China's liaison office.

1989 TIANANMEN EVENTS
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

The territory's media also heaped praises on the former leader, with The South China Morning Post calling him a "Communist Party chief with a distinctive human touch".

"The people will always remember him," the Apple Daily said in an editorial.

In mainland China, however, Zhao's death received only limited coverage.

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

Zhao, who as party chief oversaw China's bold economic reforms, was removed from power after he opposed using military force against the protesters in Tiananmen Square.

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

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.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Zhao was seen as a symbol of democratic reform



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