Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that police were deployed to monitor hundreds of petitioners who gathered to mourn around the home of former Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who died on January 17.
According to HRIC’s sources in China, around 9 a.m. on January 18, four to five hundred petitioners gathered at an assembly point, dressed in mourning and carrying floral mourning wreaths and banners imprinted with the words, “In Memory of Our Good Leader.” They then walked in a procession to Zhao’s home in the Fu Qiang Hutong to pay their respects to Zhao, who was purged and had been held under house arrest since expressing his opposition to the violent crackdown on students and citizens protesting in Tiananmen Square in May and June 1989.
According to HRIC’s sources, more than 100 uniformed and plainclothes police were deployed to the scene. However, they did not impede the petitioners from placing their floral wreaths at the entrance of the hutong, and allowed the petitioners to express their sorrow before dispersing.
Informed sources told HRIC that following Zhao’s death, an unusually large number of police officers were deployed to patrol Beijing’s petitioner colonies. A number of dissidents and other persons with sensitive backgrounds were also reported to be under tighter surveillance, with some restricted to their homes, and others closely followed if they went out. A number have had their telephone communications cut off. However, police have displayed a measure of tolerance toward mourners rather than attempting to prohibit all memorial activities. Sources told HRIC that a number of small-scale memorial activities are being carried out in Beijing, with some people paying respects in the privacy of their homes, and others gathering in groups of several dozen people for more organized memorials.
In Shanghai, sources told HRIC that 700-800 petitioners had gathered for a protest outside the building where Shanghai’s municipal Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress and People’s Congress were holding a joint session, but upon learning of Zhao Ziyang’s death, they began to express their sorrow instead. The Shanghai authorities reportedly deployed some 1,000 police officers, who detained hundreds of the petitioners and took them to local dispatch stations for further processing. HRIC’s sources say that police beat a number of petitioners while detaining them. One protester, Xu Zhengqing, was left with bruises covering his body, his glasses broken and his clothing torn.
“We at HRIC would like to express our sorrow at the death of Zhao Ziyang,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It is only natural that the people of China should wish to mourn the death of one of the few senior officials who not only promoted openness and reform, but also openly defended the people’s rights. The Chinese government should allow the Chinese people to freely express their sorrow and regret at his demise.”