President Gerald Ford (R) met with Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the People's Republic of China in Peking during his official visit that took place from December 1-5, 1975. Mao was laid to rest in China on September 18, 1976. UPI File Photo | License Photo
HONG KONG (UPI) -- A quarter of mankind stood in silent tribute to Mao Tse-tung today as sirens wailed a mournful farewell to the peasant-born revolutionary who directed China's transformation into a Communist state.
In Peking's Tien An Men Gate of Heavenly Peace Square, where Mao proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China almost 27 years ago, one million Chinese attended a half-hour funeral service for the Communist party chairman.
The mourners paid silent homage to Mao as an army band played a funeral march.
The band then played the national anthem and the Communist "Internationale."
A large portrait of Mao, draped in black crepe, hung on Then An Men Gate. The national flag flew at half-staff in the center of the square.
Premier and Communist party first Vice Chairman Hua Kuo-feng, who moved into the nominal No. 1 power position following Mao's death Sept. 9 at age 82, delivered the eulogy.
Wang Hung-wen, youngest member of the ruling politburo and now ranked No. 2 in the Communist hierarchy, presided over the funeral service, which, in an unprecedented move, was broadcast and televised live to the entire nation.
"It was under Chairman Mao's leadership that the disaster-plagued Chinese nation rose to its feet," Hua said in his eulogy. "The Chinese people love, trust and esteem Chairman Mao from the bottom of their hearts.
"The international proletariat and progressive mankind all deeply mourn the death of Chairman Mao."
Before the funeral began, sirens sounded throughout China for three minutes. The country's 800 million inhabitants -- one fourth of world's population -- stood in silent tribute in every city, village, factory and commune in China.
Tien An Men Square was ringed by soldiers, militiamen, police and public security personnel and security was "extremely tight" throughout the capital, Peking residents told United Press International by telephone.
Foreigners were barred from the funeral service but watched the solemn proceedings on television.
Hua, Wang and other party, state and military leaders stood on a large red rostrum specially constructed for the service.
A large black banner, with white Chinese characters reading "Carry Out Chairman Mao's Behests and Carry the Proletarian Revolutionary Cause Through to the End," was placed near the Martyr's Monument in the center of the square.
Under Mao's tutelage, the Chinese Communist party grew from a band of 70 in 1921 to more than 30 million members today, Hua told the mourners.
Mao died while a power struggle he launched a year ago was still raging and the army is considered a key factor in resolving the struggle and selecting a successor to Mao.
Bowing three times before a portrait of Mao while the army band played "The East is Red," Hua and the other Chinese leaders pledged to "turn grief into strength" and carry out Mao's policies.
As the half-hour-long service ended, they led the crowd in shouting, "Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought. Long Live the Great, Glorious and Correct Communist Party of China. Chairman Mao is immortal."
there was no indication of the disposition of Mao's body. In the past, however, the bodies of all deceased Chinese leaders have been cremated.