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Beijing warns on Zhao reaction

From China analyst Willy Lam for CNN

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(CNN) -- Beijing has warned against "anti-government forces" taking advantage of the death of former party chief Zhao Ziyang to stir up trouble for the administration.

In an internal circular relayed last weekend to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) units nationwide, the leadership called on cadres and party members to raise their guard against efforts by "hostile foreign forces" and disaffected elements within the country to undermine socio-political stability in the weeks ahead.

Former party general secretary Zhao died on Monday at the age of 85.

Since early in the northern winter, President Hu Jintao and his aides have been working on ways to defuse any crisis that the long-anticipated demise of the popular Zhao might precipitate.

The circular also noted that after Zhao's death, police and other security units must do all they can to prevent intellectuals, students and other people from holding gatherings or other commemorative activities.

A party source in Beijing said Hu's advisers pointed out that the 1989 pro-democracy movement arose soon after the death of another revered party chief, Hu Yaobang, in mid-April that year.

Late patriarch Deng Xiaoping's decision to crush the student activists with tanks led to the Tiananmen Square massacre -- and the ouster of the liberal Zhao.

The party source said in spite of their moderate, pro-reform reputation, both President Hu and close ally Premier Wen Jiabo were nervous about possible worsening of social instability.

The source said the CCP leadership had decided in principle not to hold any funeral or public memorial services for Zhao; nor would the official media be allowed to publish any articles on the life of the noted reformer.

The terse, one-paragraph text announcing Zhao's death by the official New China News Agency omitted his former titles and steered clear of any assessment of Zhao, also a former premier and party boss of Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.

This was despite the fact that in petitions to the authorities carried on the Internet, a number of party elders as well as avant-garde intellectuals had urged the CCP leadership to give public recognition at least to Zhao's contributions to economic and political reforms.

Overseas-based dissidents have also demanded that the Hu-Wen leadership overturn the official assessment of the 1989 events as a "counter-revolutionary turmoil."

It is understood that the Hu leadership fears that should intellectuals take the lead in holding public protests to clear Zhao's name, other disaffected sectors such as dispossessed peasants and jobless workers may join in.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing said while the capital and other big cities such as Shanghai were calm after the announcement of Zhao's demise, Hu would likely continue the crackdown on the nation's restive liberal intellectuals.

Soon after he took over the post of commander-in-chief from ex-president Jiang Zemin last September, Hu began a tough campaign against "public intellectuals" as well as advocates of "new liberalism."

These targeted scholars, writers, and liberal cadres -- many of whom are Zhao admirers -- had urged the Hu-Wen team to speed up Western-style political reform.

Hu has also just kicked off an 18-month-long ideological education campaign to "preserve the advanced nature" of the nation's 86 million party members.

According to official releases, this ideological crusade is aimed at preventing cadres and ordinary party members from succumbing to the "infiltration and subversion" of Western-style ideas about political reform.


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