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Security High in Beijing after Zhao’s Death
Zhao Zifa

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Former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, deposed for disagreeing with the Chinese government’s military action against the students and civilians during the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, died on January 17, 2005.

Three places in Beijing have been put under high alert to prevent public demonstrations inspired by his death: Fuyang Alley, where Zhao was under house arrest for 15 years; Beijing Hospital, where Zhao died; and Tiananmen Square, the political center of China.

People who are affected the most by Zhao Ziyang’s death are the protesters during the Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement, unemployed workers, landless peasants, protesters who have no way to appeal, righteous people, and officers and soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army who participated in the Massacre.

Instead of sending the police and army to suppress protesters as before, the Beijing government slyly changed its previous autocratic image by arranging a lot of plainclothes police to monitor all important entrances of these places.

Zhao Ziyang's Home on Fuqiang Alley Patrolled By Police

Fuqiang Alley, where Zhao had been put under house arrest for 15 years, is also being closely watched by many plainclothes police. On the night of January 17, one foreign reporter trying to reach Zhao’s residence was blocked by plainclothes police place in a place far away from Zhao’s residence.

Many people who went to appeal by bus were either driven out of the bus before they arrived or taken to the next two stations. Some were even taken to places quite far from there. Actually, even if they could have reached the station, they would have been stopped by plainclothes police before they could even get close to Zhao’s residence.

Some Mourners Visit Beijing Hospital

Sources inside China say that some people have successfully arrived at Beijing Hospital. An elderly lady from Jiangxi province, who has appealed for six or seven years without response, brought six or seven people to mourn in Beijing Hospital immediately after finding out about Zhao Ziyang’s death. Zhao had long been a proponent of democracy and legal appeals for the people.

Plainclothes Police Line Tiananmen Square

Two Chinese policemen question a woman on Tiananmen Square.(Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images)

Tiananmen Square has become the focus since January 17.

On January 17, the day Zhao passed away, there were about three or four police patrol cars and three or four Iveco police vans for arresting people on Tiananmen Square. The police vans went to and fro in the square, arresting people, transporting them to a nearby police office, and then immediately returned to the square to arrest people again. Some special police forces, usually only used for important incidents, hid in tourist buses in the middle of the square. At least two police guarded each entrance of the square, aided by six to 11 plainclothes police. They searched the belongings of every tourist to ensure they did not bring explosives or flyers for mass distribution.

The Beijing government is extremely afraid that people might spread flyers or burn themselves to protest the government on Tiananmen Square.

On the Jan. 17, a person who appeared well-educated entered the square. The police at the entrance carefully went through everything in this person’s bag before they let the person in.

On the Jan. 18, the police expelled a woman who was there to appeal and she was not allowed to enter the square.

Again on the Jan. 18, the area around Jinshui Bridge and on the Tiananmen Tower, was jam-packed with plainclothes police. Beijing is serious about trying to prevent people from giving out flyers regarding Zhao’s death.

Many foreign reporters went to the square. Many of them, for the convenience of entering the square and doing interviews, would bring lady friends and pretend to be lovers. The hidden cameras were in the sleeves of the arms around the ladies’ shoulders. However, right after they entered the square, the plainclothes police began following them.

From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the January 18, at least 30 to 40 people were seen taken away in police vans on Tiananmen Square. Besides that, another 20 to 30 peasants who went to appeal in a group were locked up inside an electronic gate while visiting Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. All of them were arrested.

According to the police at the Tiananmen Square, things would be a lot easier the first three days after Zhao Ziyang’s death.

After Zhao’s death, the city of Beijing was decorated in a cheery manner; however the tourists all look sad and serious.

In regards to Zhao’s death, the Beijing Evening News only mentioned briefly on the last page that, “Comrade Zhao Ziyang Passes Away.” The CCP had reported Zhao’s death using the lowest profile tactics.

However, people from Beijing had confirmed that, starting from the afternoon of January 17, there were lanterns, colorful decorations and red flags on Tiananmen Square to create a cheerful atmosphere. On the contrary, tourists on the Tiananmen Square looked serious and sad.

Flags fly over Tiananmen Square as a policeman watches over the visitors. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

A tourist asked, “Why are red flags everywhere after Zhao passed away?”

An elderly lady from Beijing who was on the square to mourn Zhao Ziyang replied, “They are celebrating.”

People from Beijing said that the red flags in front of Xinhua Gate were not flying half-mast, as would seem appropriate, rather, they were still at full mast.

Ironically, many poor people who went to Beijing to appeal were sleeping under the red wall of Zhongnanhai, the Central Government compound.

Some Beijing residents set off firecrackers to mourn. It’s a tradition in China to set off firecrackers when one is born, married or has died.

Beijing University Expels Reporters, Uneasy Quiet inside People’s University

On January 18, a Cantonese-speaking foreign journalist was expelled by Beijing University security personnel when interviewing students in front of Beijing University. His microphone had a blue logo. Some of the Beijing University students said they had little understanding about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Beijing University and People’s University appeared to be very quiet. No mourning articles for Zhao Ziyang were posted on bulletin boards.

One Beijing resident said, 15 years ago, those students were just 8 to 9 years old. Besides that, the university teachers had been pacified by the government. Many students are children of corrupt officials; these kids only care about having fun, so why would they pay attention to these things?

Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement Activists under Surveillance

After Zhao’s death, the surviving Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement activists in Beijing such as Qi Zhiyong, Liu Huanwen, Wang Guoqi, Wang Meiru, Hua Huiqi are all watched closely by police or government security officials.

The husband of Tiananmen Mother, Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre, said that they have not been not put under surveillance because of their old age.

Her husband also said that they had noticed that writer Liu Xiaobo and Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement activists Jing Qishen were being closely watched. Other Beijing residents also confirmed that they had not been able to contact Liu Xiaobo by phone since yesterday.

Beijing resident Qi Zhiyong, who became disabled by military fire during the Tiananmen massacre, drove his handicapped-accessible car to the hospital for treatment while closely followed by two security persons and two national security police in a police vehicle. Qi accepted a short interview in between acupuncture treatments. He said he was very sad about Zhao’s death. He said that now the government has restricted their actions, and they would hold a memorial service when the restrictions are lifted.

Zhang Xianjin, who was a Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement activist and now is a devoted member of Zhongyuan Christian Church in Beijing, said that he thinks highly of Zhao Ziyang, although his way of thinking was still too old-fashioned, because he did not get rid of the Communist Party’s control, and that time he had not been able to make a powerful transition to the extent that Gorbachev did.

Whose Hearts Were Most Moved by Zhao’s Death?

Besides unemployed workers, appellants, Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement activists who are now over 40 years old, and intellectuals with a strong sense of conscience, the ones suffering from the most painful and long-term guilt are some soldiers in the Tiananmen Massacre.

One soldier from 27 Military Group who had opened fire on that day said that he felt guilt on June 4 every year. He said the martial law was set down by Premier Li Peng, and bullets were given out by Yang Baibing (then Military Commission vice chair). The army did a survey that showed were over 600 deaths. “As a soldier, we need to obey to the Party. The army drove down Changan Street. We opened fire on two students in the side streets. I feel very guilty, and if I really cannot bear it, I look for people to talk to. The government has lost their sense of humanity and has lost people’s hearts.”

How Will Most People commemorate Zhao’s Passing?

Sources inside China say that all circles of people had planned many memorial activities. Some even prepared photos of Zhao, white mourning flowers and black armbands.

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