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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solemn Thousands Remember Deng

BEIJING -- Packing the immense Great Hall of the People to its highest tiers, 10,000 of China's Communist elite bade a final farewell Tuesday to Deng Xiaoping, the country's last revolutionary leader.


"Today, we are at the Great Hall of the People ... to hold a memorial meeting and mourn for our beloved Comrade Deng Xiaoping with profound grief,'' Deng's handpicked political heir, President Jiang Zemin, said in a voice laden with emotion, dabbing his eyes during his 50-minute eulogy.


Outside, in its own tribute to the economic reforms crafted by Deng, the noisy bustle of traffic and commerce drowned out the sirens sounded to mark his passing.


Tuesday's memorial was a solemn, austere affair out of respect for a family request to honor Deng's wish for a simple ceremony.


Deng's ashes sat in a casket cloaked by the red Communist Party flag with its gold hammer and sickle, amid white flowers and evergreens. A huge, smiling portrait of the late leader overlooked the gathering.


The mourners, in dark suits and military uniforms with white flowers pinned to their lapels, bowed three times toward the casket in a traditional show of reverence.


Mourners stood for Jiang's entire 50-minute eulogy. A band played the national anthem at the start and then ended the ceremony with the Internationale and a dirge. Jiang and other leaders filed out of the hall, shaking hands with Deng's family.


At his family's request, Deng's ashes were to be scattered at sea.


During Tuesday's ceremony, police kept crowds away from Tiananmen Square, just outside the hall. Once allowed in, mourners swarmed on to the vast plaza, some to lay flowers on the Monument to the People's Heroes. Police did not stop them, but they soon took the bouquets away. Earlier, authorities had prevented such public displays of grief, fearing that they might spin out of control. In 1989, student mourning for Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang evolved into pro-democracy demonstrations that Deng ordered crushed by troops six weeks later.


In a sign of the challenges facing Deng's successors, a bomb exploded Tuesday in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang in northwestern China, killing at least two people and injuring 21. The explosion came after separatist rioting earlier this month killed at least 10 people and injured more than 140.


Deng's legacy is one of continued suppression of all public dissent. But he is credited with crafting market-oriented economic policies that have brought unprecedented progress to a country once mired in poverty and political turmoil.


"Comrade Deng Xiaoping made us rich,'' said Yuan Yong, a traveling salesman with a mobile phone stuffed in the shirt pocket beneath his smart suit.