Comrades praise `great Marxist' but it's business as usual for the Chin ese

Deng's memorial: One ceremony, two reactions
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The Independent Online
The final legacy of Deng Xiaoping proved yesterday to be the freedom not to have to mourn his passing.

In the Guiyou department store, nonchalant shoppers ignored the rows of purple-uniformed shop assistants who were standing to attention as the public address system blared a live transmission of Deng's hour-long memorial ceremony.

"Maybe some people just mourn him inside their hearts," ventured one shop girl, after a smartly dressed woman had demanded to try on a pair of cream court shoes costing 256 yuan (pounds 20). It was a fitting tribute for a man who had wanted his funeral to be a non-event.

Meanwhile, in the Great Hall of the People, the political theatre proceeded in a world of its own. A casket containing Deng's ashes had been placed under a giant photograph of the former patriarch, and covered with the Communist Party flag. Before an audience of 10,000 senior party and government officials, President Jiang Zemin declared Deng "a great Marxist", adding "without comrade Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese people would not live a new life like today's and there would not be today's new situation of reforms and opening-up and the bright prospects of the socialist modernisation".

He pledged that China would continue the reform policies of Deng, offering no succour to either leftists or those who would wish to reassess the verdict on the June 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

The president said the Chinese people should "express our mourning by working harder and doing well in all aspects of practical work".

On the streets of Peking, some grieved openly and some did not. Many of those whose lifestyles are a product of the Deng reforms disregarded even the official three-minute silence in favour of business as usual.

"It's quite busy, people are still buying vegetables," grinned one stall- holder in an open-air private food market, when asked why she was not watching the televised memorial ceremony.

The people of the Deng era were all around. There was the 20-year-old migrant worker from Shandong province who had arrived by train at 1am that day planning to seek work as a hotel chef, one of millions who are now free to roam the country looking for jobs; no, he would not be watching the ceremony, he said, sitting on his bundles on the pavement, "I have nowhere to watch TV."

There was an illicit money-changer outside a branch of the Bank of China who was far more interested in how Deng's death might affect the exchange rates than in the memorial.

In old fashioned state work units and government offices, tools and pens were generally downed for the three-minute silence, but not everywhere. At the Tunnel Engineering Branch of the No 4 Municipal Engineering Company, which these days must keep an eye on the bottom line, an official explained that only party members and cadres would watch the broadcast, leaving the 800 construction workers still toiling underground. A central government edict had ordered state units like his to ensure "the masses" also watched, he admitted, "but we have our own internal instructions". It would be too disruptive to the work schedule, he said.

The 63-year-old doorman at the No 1 Machine Tool Factory explained that, unlike everyone else in the factory, he would not see the live broadcast "because there must be someone to keep watch".

Was he disappointed? "No, because if I can't see it today, I can see it tomorrow. It will be on TV repeatedly." Like many of his generation who worked for cash-strapped state enterprises, he had been forced out of retirement because his pension after 30 years at the machine tool factory was so meagre.

Deng's reforms have been tough on the enterprises which were cocooned by central planning. "Over the last few years, the business here has become not good," he said.

When Chairman Mao died, a Chinese person was more likely to get into trouble for not mourning publicly than for doing so. Deng's programme of economic reform combined with an authoritarian political system has had the effect of reversing this.

By 7.40am, the police had cleared Tiananmen Square of any ordinary Chinese who had come to grieve or just to watch. An elderly couple who earlier laid a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes were allowed to walk across the square before plain-clothes police firmly helped them into a summoned police van.

A similar fate awaited mourners later in the day, one of whom placed a flower in a bottle - a play on the name Xiaoping which in Chinese sounds the same as "Little Bottle".

Inside the hall, Mr Jiang stood centre stage as the man whom Deng, before his death, had called the "correct choice" as the new "core" of the party leadership, and someone "qualified" for the job.

The memorial ceremony, it turned out, was a 50-minute speech by Mr Jiang, eulogising Deng and promising to carry on his reforms. His death was "a loss beyond measure", said the president, producing tears which would not have convinced the most desperate casting director.

The speech gave the world the first hint of the path to be followed in the post-Deng era. A Western diplomat said: "The message there is, first of all, that the policy of reform will continue, and secondly that Jiang's your man. The fact he was up there delivering the authoritative word on the Deng legacy made that point."

The speech was "more positive on reform than one might have expected, which is pretty good news", he added.

Mr Jiang stuck to the official line on the June 1989 so-called "counter- revolutionary" events. "Because the party and the government adopted a firm and sober stand, and because the achievements of reform and opening up and socialist modernisation had taken root in the hearts of the people, we withstood the severe test, and our cause continued its vigorous development along the road set," he said.

In the closing hours of the official six-day mourning period last night, the television channels showed repeats of the mourning ceremony.

Today the flags will be hoisted back to the top of their poles, and the post-Deng era begins in earnest.

Peking (Reuters) - Two bombs rocked the Chinese city of Urumqi, capital of China's Muslim western region of Xinjiang, yesterday. Officials reported several casualties. Residents said the blasts occurred at about 6.30pm local time, on the last of six days' mourning for Deng Xiaoping. One explosion involved a vehicle believed to be a minibus; the second occurred at the south gate of the city, officials said. Ethnic Ughurs were thought to be involved.