Chinese government marks 90th birthday of late deposed leader

The Chinese government on Friday marked the 90th birthday of late deposed leader Hu Yaobang, the first time Beijing has honored him since his death in 1989 prompted mourning that grew into the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. Premier Wen Jiabao, the No. 3 Communist Party leader, was the highest-ranking official to attend the ceremony in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It described the event as a symposium.

The brief report said Vice President Zeng Qinghong gave a speech, but it gave no other details. President Hu Jintao, who is no relation to Hu Yaobang, was in South Korea for an Asian-Pacific regional economic conference.

The event signaled a possible rehabilitation of Hu Yaobang, who was dismissed in 1987 as the ruling party's general secretary by then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping for allowing earlier student protests. After he died in April 1989, students who admired his reformist record went to Tiananmen Square to lay funeral bouquets. The outpouring of sympathy grew into massive demonstrations that ended when the military attacked on June 3-4, 1989, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.

The government had not publicly commemorated Hu since then. Hu was born on Nov. 20, 1915, in the central province of Hunan. The brief Xinhua report didn't say why the anniversary of his birth was celebrated two days early.

President Hu will be back in China on Sunday, when he will host a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush. Even after being fired as leader, Hu Yaobang retained prestige in the party, unlike his successor, Zhao Ziyang, who was dismissed for sympathizing with the Tiananmen Square protesters and lived under house arrest for 16 years until his death in January, reports the AP, reports the AP. I.L.

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