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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 09:49 GMT
China to mark reformer's birth
General Secretary Hu Yaobang salutes as he reviews a military parade in this file photo taken in Sept. 1981.
Hu Yaobang was popular for his openness to reform
China is to mark for the first time the birthday of former leader Hu Yaobang, whose death in 1989 was a catalyst for the Tiananmen Square protests.

The foreign ministry said a ceremony would be held this month to mark Hu's 90th birthday, and that it would be attended by China's central leadership.

The move suggests Beijing wants to restore the reputation of Hu, who was popular in China for his openness.

But analysts doubted it heralded any reassessment of the Tiananmen events.

"In the middle of November, a commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of Hu Yaobang will be held in Beijing," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a press briefing on Tuesday.

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 central leadership, the party, political and military and other leaders from the grassroots, will be present at the meeting, and the central leadership will deliver a speech."

No other details - such as the ceremony's date - were given, indicating how politically sensitive the matter remains.

Hu was born on 20 November 1915, and would have been 90 this Sunday.

Hu, who was general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in the early 1980s, was a key figure as China implemented economic reforms and emerged from the repression of the Cultural Revolution.

He was particularly popular for his openness, and for his rehabilitation of thousands of people who had suffered during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

But he was sacked by then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, for failing to control student protests in 1986-87.

Two years later, his death led to demonstrations of support and calls for faster change by students and others, in protests that converged on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

On 3-4 June 1989, hundreds of the demonstrators were killed around the Square as the government sent tanks to quash the protests.

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