Ousted Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang finally given burial

Mr Zhao Ziyang's family held a low-key, long-delayed ceremony last Friday in a cemetery on the northern outskirts of Beijing, where the late Chinese leader's ashes were interred nearly 15 years after his death. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO READER
Mr Zhao Ziyang's family held a low-key, long-delayed ceremony last Friday in a cemetery on the northern outskirts of Beijing, where the late Chinese leader's ashes were interred nearly 15 years after his death. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO READER

BEIJING • A century after his birth and nearly 15 years after his death, Mr Zhao Ziyang, the reformist Chinese Communist Party leader who opposed the armed suppression of student protests in 1989, was given a quiet burial in Beijing last week under police guard.

The low-key, long-delayed ceremony last Friday was the latest episode showing that even after his death in 2005, Mr Zhao remains a sensitive topic in Chinese politics.

His ashes were interred in a cemetery on the northern outskirts of Beijing during a small ceremony for close family members, ending a quarrel with the party authorities over where to place his remains.

He was buried alongside the ashes of his wife Liang Boqi, who died in 2013.

The interment in the cemetery took place a day after the centenary of Mr Zhao's birth on Oct 17, 1919, in Henan province, central China.

Usually, late Chinese leaders' major anniversaries inspire laudatory speeches and editorials.

But Mr Zhao was consigned to the class of toppled former leaders whose anniversaries are smothered in official silence and stepped-up security.

Mr Zhao rose to power in the 1980s, when former leader Deng Xiaoping picked him out as a bold provincial leader with ideas on rejuvenating China's economy.

As China's premier from 1980, Mr Zhao became a chief proponent of market overhauls, including promoting private businesses and foreign investment.

Mr Zhao was pushed from office in May 1989, before troops moved in to clear Tiananmen Square, starting on June 3 that year and going into the early hours of June 4. Hundreds died as the troops pressed into Beijing, according to most estimates.

The party denounced Mr Zhao as a turncoat who had revealed splits in the leadership and defied Mr Deng's will. Mr Zhao, who refused to admit to any wrongdoing, was never tried. He spent his late years largely confined to his courtyard home.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 20, 2019, with the headline 'Ousted Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang finally given burial'. Print Edition | Subscribe