Former Chinese leader's death leaves dilemma for leadership

While he lived, China's Communist Party considered ousted leader Zhao Ziyang such a potent threat that it kept him under house arrest for 15 years.

After his death, China's leaders face an even tougher challenge: how to give a fallen comrade his due without stirring up support for a figure accused of endangering communist rule in 1989.

Zhao helped to launch China's economic boom as then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping's protege. But after he suggested compromising with pro-democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square, he was dismissed, charged with "splitting the party" and forced into house arrest.

"It certainly is a delicate issue for the government," said Kenneth Lieberthal, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution. "They will want to show respect without being overly glorifying."

Acting quickly to head off unauthorized commemorations, the government posted extra guards outside Zhao's home in central Beijing hours after his death. Paramilitary police swarmed Tiananmen Square, China's symbolic political center, with two busloads of reinforcements standing by.

As they prepare to memorialize him, Chinese leaders are sure to have in mind the parallels with 1989. Then, the Tiananmen Square protests grew out of public mourning for Hu Yaobang, Zhao's predecessor as party leader, who had himself been purged after student-led protests.

But China has changed vastly in the years since Zhao was banished, and analysts said a repeat is unlikely.

Today's students, just children during Zhao's era, tend to be focused on carving out careers and are far less politically active.

China has few active dissidents left. The rest are in jail or exile.

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