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Thousands pay last respects to Deng Xiaoping

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Chinese leader cremated; memorial Tuesday

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February 24, 1997
Web posted at: 6:00 a.m. EST (1100 GMT)

BEIJING (CNN) -- Deng Xiaoping made his last journey down Beijing's Avenue of Eternal Peace Monday as a motorcade delivered his body past thousands of mourners to Babaoshan cemetery.

The Chinese leader, who died last week at 92, was cremated at the cemetery in the city's western hills where many of China's revolutionary heroes are buried, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Jiang Zemin, Deng's chosen successor; Premier Li Peng; the five other members of the politburo; and several other dignitaries bowed three times before Deng's body in a traditional gesture of respect as it lay surrounded by flowers in the General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army before being moved to the cemetery.

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Deng's widow kisses him good-bye

The white minibus-hearse that carried Deng past what Xinhua said was 100,000 people was covered with yellow and white ribbons.

The funeral plans for China's last great revolutionary figure were purposely subdued, making the funeral procession from the hospital to the cemetery the only event open to the public.

Police keep mourning subdued

The mourners along the route, many of whom were bused in from universities and state-owned factories, showed little emotion as the cortege move slowly along its 1 1/2-mile route.

Armed police in dress uniforms lined the procession route at intervals of about 10 feet, a vivid reminder that the government worried the occasion could easily turn into more than just a tearful farewell to Deng.

Along the route were banners, pictures, wreaths, black arm bands and white paper flowers -- all quiet expressions of grief.

After Deng's body had passed, one man tacked up a small white banner that proclaimed in Chinese "Eternal Glory To Beloved Comrade Deng Xiaoping."

But words were few as mourners understood that dramatic protestations of devotion to Deng, or ideas associated with him, were unlikely to be tolerated by the ubiquitous police presence.

No repeat of past demonstrations

Jiang and his supporters were not taking any chances that this procession might escalate into a political demonstration.

The deaths of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in 1976 both led to difficulties with the public for authorities. And in 1989, the memorial service for moderate Hu Yaobang sparked the student demonstrations for democracy that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

But a former official of the mining bureau wept silently as the motorcade passed and spoke of his admiration for Deng.

"He really had an impact on the building of our country. We're eating, dressing better. That would have been extremely difficult before," said the man, who gave only his surname, Tang.

The six-day period of mourning for Deng will end Tuesday when 10,000 Communist Party elite converge on the Great Hall of the people to pay last respects to Deng. Deng's successor Jiang, who headed the official funeral committee, is expected to deliver the eulogy.

Albright cuts visit short

Although, neither the public nor international dignitaries will be in attendance, the proceedings in the Great Hall will be broadcast live on television to China and the rest of the world.

In accordance with Deng's wishes, his ashes will be scattered at sea.

Representatives from other countries were not invited because Deng, who retired in 1990, was considered a private citizen.

Deng was cremated just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Beijing on the last stop of a nine-country, 11-day around-the-world tour. Albright has compressed her Beijing schedule into one day so that she can leave before the final memorial begins.

 
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