Wang gone but not forgotten
FLAGS all over Beijing flew at half mast yesterday as one of the most hated men in China was cremated.
Vice-President Mr Wang Zhen, who died in Guangzhou on March 12 after a long illness, was cremated at Beijing's Eight Treasure Mountain Cemetery yesterday morning after a ceremony attended by President Mr Yang Shangkun, General Secretary Mr Jiang Zemin andPremier Mr Li Peng.
Mr Wang's official obituary described him as a ''a great proletarian revolutionary, staunch Marxist and an outstanding leader of the party and state.'' Others had a less flattering assessment of his life. ''He was a criminal. That's all there is to it,'' one university professor said.
The professor held a dinner party last week to celebrate Mr Wang's death with a few friends and express the hope that one or two of the party's other hardline elders might join him soon.
Even by Communist Party standards, Mr Wang was a particularly unpleasant individual, the professor said.
''He was obsessed with his own power and would never willingly give up a position of authority. What's more he used his power to abuse others and destroy his enemies,'' he said.
While the professor had a personal axe to grind, his opinions were shared by many in the capital.
When Wang's death was announced on the main evening news bulletin, a group of young entrepreneurs having dinner at a friend's house let out a collective cheer and immediately toasted the good news.
While Wang's cremation was carried out with all the due solemnity an ''immortal'' could expect, the people of Beijing were not sorry to see him go.
The former general's ashes will be scattered over Heaven Mountain in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which he helped to conquer in 1949 and ruled as a military warlord in the early 1950s.
Wang always maintained a fond attachment to his former princedom, suggesting after the military crackdown in 1989 that it would be a good place to dump the ''counter-revolutionary trouble makers'' who took part in the pro-democracy demonstrations.
One of the main advocates of military force during the 1989 student movement, Wang seemed to almost relish the prospect of seeing blood flowing in the streets of Beijing.
He even threatened to use the army against the much smaller student demonstrations in 1986.
Soon after those demonstrations, Wang was instrumental in ousting the reformist Communist Party boss Hu Yaobang, who Wang accused of being too sympathetic to forces opposed to the party.
Wang did give his support to the economic reform programme advocated by China's paramount leader Mr Deng Xiaoping, particularly the development of the southern special economic zones, which Wang hoped would boost China's economic power in Asia.