Deng's old rival gets a low-key send-off

Peking - Fortuitously for the Chinese government, Chen Yun had left instructions that he did not want an elaborate funeral, writes Teresa Poole. So yesterday China's top leaders paid their last respects in private, bowing before his body during a low-key farewell ceremony at the hospital before Chen's coffin was whisked through town for cremation at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery.

Flags flew at half-staff in Tiananmen Square and around the country for Chen, who died last week aged 90, and the official newspapers bore black mast-heads and carried extensive eulogies to the veteran Long Marcher, described as "an outstanding Marxist

The government had arranged a day with no possible surprises. Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, there have been no state funerals for party figures and mourning rituals have been treated as though charged with possible political sensitivity.

Mr Deng was predictably absent. Nor was any mention made of the ailing 90-year-old patriarch in the official news dispatches about the day of mourning. Was this an official signal about the state of Mr Deng's health, or a sign that there was no peace to be made with his hardline rival even after winning the battle for longevity?