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Inside Politics

Pelosi joins tribute to former China leader

Zhao made 'a statement for freedom' at Tiananmen, she says

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Ousted Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang dies at 85.
Nancy Pelosi
Zhao Ziyang

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined a gathering of Chinese community and human rights groups Saturday to honor the late Zhao Ziyang, former premier of China.

Zhao, who had been under house arrest for refusing to shoot participants in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, died January 17 in Beijing.

About 100 people held a moment of silence for Zhao on Washington's Mall and hailed him as "a great leader of China."

Tao Wang, spokesman for the groups, said international rallies were being held to say goodbye to Zhao and to "bid farewell to the Chinese Communist Party."

Pelosi said that the Chinese government has kept the circumstances of Zhao's death a secret from its people "but the more they tried to suppress his message and his courage, the stronger they make him."

She said Zhao was like the young man who stood before the tank in Tiananmen Square: "a courageous individual making a statement for freedom" and "maybe in death his message will even be stronger than it was in life."

"Troops may crush a protest, but they can never extinguish the flame of freedom that burns in every heart, here and in China," Pelosi said, adding, "So when our administration says that we are going to take freedom to the darkest corners of the earth, I hope that includes the largest country in the world as well."

Other speakers at the rally called for the release of Chinese political prisoners and dissidents.

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