China confirms death of ex-gov't spokesman who denied Tiananmen deaths

BEIJING, China  – China on Tuesday, December 25, announced the death of Yuan Mu, the former government spokesman who denied anyone was killed on Tiananmen Square during the bloody 1989 crackdown, nearly two weeks after his passing.

A former Communist propaganda official, Yuan defended the Chinese government after soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) fired on unarmed pro-democracy protesters.

He died aged 91 on December 13 from an illness, state news agency Xinhua said Tuesday.

Some Communist party leaders offered tributes to Yuan and condolences to his family, it added.

Reports of Yuan's death had been unusually muted in China's official media. The Paper, a state-linked newspaper, last week put up an article with a memorial service notice but quickly removed it.

Yuan's name has also been censored on the Twitter-like Weibo, where a search showed results could not be displayed "according to the relevant laws, regulations and policies."

But a query on an online obituary website turned up an entry for Yuan where visitors can pay to burn virtual incense or leave virtual flowers.

Born in Jiangsu in 1927, Yuan was a journalist with Xinhua before joining the government and rising to become a director of the State Council Research Office, according to the news agency. He also served as spokesman of the State Council, China's cabinet.

On June 4, 1989, after student protesters had staged a peaceful seven week sit-in to demand democratic reforms, the Communist Party sent in tanks and soldiers to quell the protest.

Yuan had then said no one was killed at Tiananmen Square but later admitted 300 soldiers and citizens died around it, with some 7,000 injured, a number far lower than many independent estimates.

The government has since refused to talk about the number of people who may have been killed, and mentions of the incident are censored on the Chinese internet– Rappler.com