Party authorities have set up a special team to investigate circumstances surrounding two petitions allegedly sent by ousted party chief Zhao Ziyang to the leadership. Diplomatic sources said yesterday the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection had established a taskforce to check whether Mr Zhao had infringed party discipline. It also wanted to find out who helped Mr Zhao prepare and disseminate the petitions, which had had considerable impact in Beijing and overseas. One letter asked the presidium of the 15th Party Congress, held last September, to re-evaluate the verdict of the 1989 student demonstrations. The other, written soon after the death of Deng Xiaoping in February, criticised the personality cult built around President Jiang Zemin and urged faster political reform. Apart from cadres from the commission, members of the high-level team included officials from the Central Committee General Office. Also represented were a secretary of a senior Politburo member and a party elder formerly active in the now-disbanded Central Advisory Commission. Sources said Mr Zhao, who is in Beijing, had appeared before the investigators. However, they said the former head of the party's liberal faction had dissociated himself from the petitions. It is understood that surveillance of Mr Zhao has increased in the past two months. It is unlikely that he will be allowed to leave the capital in the near future. A diplomatic analyst said the main purpose of the investigations was to 'intimidate' liberal associates of the former party general secretary. He said that while most of Mr Zhao's associates and underlings were no longer in office, members of the party's liberal and moderate wings agreed with him that a reassessment of the Tiananmen Square crackdown was a first step towards political reform. Meanwhile, sources close to Mr Jiang's think-tanks said yesterday that while he played no direct role in the 1989 event, Mr Jiang saw the petitions as a challenge to his authority. They said the Zhao letters had only reinforced Mr Jiang's determination not to touch the contentious issue during his term of office, which runs to 2002. The team is not expected to publicise the results of its investigations.