Zhao Ziyang was finally laid to rest yesterday in a funeral that was in keeping with the sensitivity surrounding the last 15 years of his life. The ceremony in Beijing was strictly controlled and took place amid tight security. But the arrangements also reflected the big dilemma faced by the central government as it considered how to deal with the former leader's death. Negotiations between party officials and Zhao's family had lasted for more than a week. The result was clearly a compromise. Zhao's relatives were not satisfied with the restricted nature of the proceedings. That is understandable. But the government went further than many expected in showing respect for Zhao and allowing his loss to be mourned. A careful balancing exercise was carried out - albeit one weighted heavily in favour of Beijing's probably exaggerated concerns that the funeral could spark social unrest. Zhao's death posed tough problems for the leadership. Here was a leader who had been sacked and purged from the party for sympathising with protesting students just before the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989. He had been kept under house arrest from that time until his death at the age of 85 on January 17. This had not prevented the former premier and party leader from becoming an icon of the mainland's pro-democracy movement. He was viewed by the central government as a possible rallying point for dissent and instability. But Zhao could not realistically be ignored by the government in death as he had been during the twilight years of his life. He was a driving force behind economic reforms which shaped the China of today. Zhao had also remained popular within the party. President Hu Jintao reportedly received personal appeals from friends and former classmates to ensure that their respected 'comrade' was given a fitting send-off. The funeral was an attempt to ensure that respects were paid while keeping a tight lid on the arrangements. It was a low-key affair and the guests were thoroughly vetted. Dissidents were kept away. Only flowers and messages provided by the government were permitted. There was no eulogy. And protesters who appeared outside the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery were quickly whisked away by security officers. But the last rites did take place at a cemetery reserved for China's revolutionary heroes. This is no less than Zhao deserved. Several senior officials attended to express their condolences. Wreaths were sent from various departments and Zhao's body was draped in the party flag. The statement later released by Xinhua seemed keen to get the message across that official respects had been paid to Zhao. It also dealt with the delicate matter of how to officially portray the career of the popular - but purged - leader. In keeping with the long-held party line, the statement expressed the view that Zhao 'made serious mistakes' in 1989. There was never much hope that his actions that year could be reassessed. So the criticism comes as no surprise. But the statement did recognise that Zhao had contributed to the cause of the party and the people. It also stated that he had held 'important leading positions' during the early years of the mainland's reforms and opening up to the world. It is not the most glowing account of his pioneering role, but the statement does amount to official recognition of Zhao's achievements. And that is a start. Importantly, the statement was broadcast on state television. This is believed to be the first time Zhao's name has been broadcast since 1989. Zhao is free at last. And his memory will live on. In time, he will perhaps be allowed to take his rightful place in Chinese history. Yesterday's events provide a faint glimmer of hope.