December 26, 2013 / 8:19 AM / 5 years ago

Question over purged China leader's remains as widow dies

BEIJING (Reuters) - The widow of late Chinese Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, toppled for opposing the 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, died this week, the family said, leaving a question over what will happen to his unburied remains.

Former reformist Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang (L) and his wife Liang Boqi pose for photos at the study room of his home in central Beijing in this undated photo taken in 1993. REUTERS/New Century Media and Consulting Co., Ltd.

Liang Boqi died peacefully in a Beijing hospital late on Wednesday aged 95, the family said in a statement on Thursday.

Her husband died under house arrest at age 85 in 2005. His remains were cremated and put in an urn which was still kept at the family’s traditional courtyard house as no final resting place had been found, a source close to the family told Reuters.

It was now unclear what would happen to those remains, or what would happen to the children who still live in the house in central Beijing, which is provided by the government, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Normally when a senior leader dies, his widow can continue to stay in the government provided home but when the widow dies, the children are usually forced to move out.

The cabinet spokesman’s office, which doubles as the party’s public affairs office, did not respond to a request for comment.

Top leaders’ remains are normally interred at the Baobashan cemetery in western Beijing, but Zhao was not given that honor as the party wanted him forgotten and offered a resting place in an obscure location. The family turned that offer down as it would have been inaccessible to the public.

The party, which values stability above all else, has remained nervous about Zhao’s residual influence and has tried to erase him from public memory, blanking out his role in economic reforms that turned China from a economic backwater into a powerhouse.

Zhao never recanted in his opposition to the 1989 crackdown.

The government has resisted repeated calls from activists and dissidents to change its verdict that the Tiananmen protests were a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” and hold inquiries into what happened.

Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Writing by Ben Blanchard

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