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Deng's heirs take their last bow

Amid heavy security, about 100 people, mostly Communist Party veterans, will this morning bow before the flag-shrouded corpse of Deng Xiaoping, before his body is whisked from a military hospital in Peking to the Babaoshan (Eight Treasure Mountain) cemetery for a private cremation ceremony.

Plainclothes and uniformed police presence is getting stronger every day, ahead of an event which the authorities know will be watched by millions around the world. Tiananmen Square and the university district, where students today return to classes after the Chinese new year holiday, are under a heavy security blanket.

Deng's ashes are to be placed in the Great Hall of the People from where, tomorrow morning, a 10,000-strong memorial service will be broadcast to the nation. The Chinese government, determined to allow no possibility of mishaps in the carefully stage-managed event, has reportedly selected the people who will be allowed to line the streets to express their grief.

Police reinforcements have been brought in to the city, which already had one no-go area around the South Korean consulate where a senior North Korean diplomat is holed up after asking for asylum. The city's traffic police must also contend today with the arrival of the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, whose scheduled visit has been curtailed so she leaves China before the memorial service tomorrow. Ms Albright will be the first major foreign dignitary to meet President Jiang Zemin since Deng died last week.

The government has acted swiftly to prevent any private expressions of grief, which it feared might get out of hand.

At Peking University over the weekend, returning students seemed more concerned about their classes than Deng's funeral arrangements. In the economics department, a 25-year-old postgraduate said: "He was a great man who created a new era. I feel very sad. Now I only want to study hard."

In the biological chemistry department, a 22-year-old student said: "I love Deng's pragmatist spirit. I came from a poor village in Yunnan province. Right now I only want to find a job, remain in Peking, save money, and go to America to study. Even if in the future I work for a foreign company, I can always find ways to serve China."