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Tiananmen Square crackdown

Late Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang can be laid to rest - a decade after death

Approval given for burial 10 years after the late leader's death but there's still no concrete plan on a final resting place, family says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 April, 2015, 12:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 April, 2015, 11:22am

The family of late liberal Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang said on Sunday they had finally received approval for the burial of his ashes, a decade after his death.

"They [the authorities] have agreed to have them buried together," Zhao's son-in-law Wang Zhihua said, referring to the late leader and his wife Liang Boqi , who died in late 2013.

Zhao was purged for opposing the military crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement and died on January 17, 2005.

His ashes have been kept at his former courtyard home in Beijing because there was previously no agreement with the government on a burial site.

At the time of his death, the party, which determines burial arrangements for its members, offered to inter his ashes at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery but his family wanted him to be buried privately because they were worried about future access to his ashes.

His funeral in 2005 was a sensitive event as the authorities feared it could spark large-scale mourning. On the day of his funeral, police and security agents were posted on every corner along Changan Avenue, Beijing's main thoroughfare, and many of his supporters were barred from the ceremony.

The lack of a burial site for Zhao became an issue again after Zhao's wife died over a year ago.

Wang said on Sunday that officials from the party and the Beijing government had met the family in recent months to discuss finding a burial site for Zhao and his wife. There was still no firm plan but the family said it was a step forward. "Their attitude was sincere and we can talk about things," Zhao's youngest son, Zhao Wujun , said. "We just want the old people to be buried peacefully."

Zhao Ziyang's burial has not been resolved because the authorities are still nervous about invoking the memory of the popular leader, whose opposition to the armed crackdown made him a symbol of conscience. Zhao spent the last 16 years of his life under house arrest, accused of "splitting the party" and "supporting unrest" for sympathising with protestors in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.

Political commentator Zhang Lifan said the permission to inter Zhao's ashes did not indicate the authorities would rehabilitate Zhao's reputation, and officials would still be worried about his grave becoming a pilgrimage site.

On Sunday, the traditional Ching Ming Festival, more than 100 people went to Zhao's former home in Beijing to pay their respects, his son said. But observers said police security was tight around Zhao's home, and human rights website Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch reported that police stopped a dozen petitioners from Heilongjiang nearby, detaining four.