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Former Chinese Communist Party Leader Zhao Laid to Rest in Beijing

China has held funeral services for purged Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang nearly two weeks after his death. Mr. Zhao spent 15 years under house arrest for advocating reform during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations. Officials again used the day to criticize Mr. Zhao.

Police shooed away onlookers who braved the subfreezing temperatures outside Beijing's Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery hoping to pay tribute to the late reformer Zhao Ziyang before his cremation Saturday. Security was tight because officials fear his death on January 17 might spark anti-government protests.

One group of onlookers challenged police as agents tried to push them away from the cemetery entrance. Onlookers questioned why they could not pay tribute.

Mr. Zhao was purged as party leader in 1989 for sympathizing with pro-democracy activists who led an ill-fated protest at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Officials feared Zhao Ziyang's death might have triggered protests much in the same way that the death of another reformist leader, Hu Yaobang, triggered the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

The government had imposed a blackout on news of Mr. Zhao's death and only released his official obituary Saturday. In it, Mr. Zhao was praised for helping economic reforms, but criticized for so-called "serious mistakes" during the 1989 protests.

Saturday's cremation and ceremony were modest in a country where high-ranking Communist Party officials are normally given elaborate state funerals. The only people invited to view the flag-draped coffin had been carefully screened by the party.

Those not allowed to pay their respects complained of efforts to suppress Mr. Zhao's importance to China.

One such mourner, standing outside the cemetery, criticized the government's handling of this.

He said that people are not allowed to express their feelings and he thanks foreign news sources for providing information not available from state-sponsored media.

Aside from a few angry scenes and minor scuffles outside the cemetery, there were no signs of the protests the government feared. Many young people polled on the streets of Beijing say they have no idea who Zhao Ziyang was.

Perry Link, professor of Asian Studies at Princeton University in the United States, says the decision by President Hu Jintao's administration to keep quiet on the passing of Mr. Zhao is an example of the Communist Party's strategy of finding ways to make younger people forget what happened in the previous generation.

"The new young generation doesn't know and you can't blame them for that,” he said. “They don't know because the news is repressed, because history is distorted by the party, who of course is concerned about preserving their own power. That's happened and happened again."

Analysts say it is easier for the leadership to take the focus off sensitive political issues, because the economy is booming and people are focused on raising living standards. Some also say the fact that Mr. Zhao spent his last 15 years under house arrest and out of public view was enough to make many forget his role in China's history.