China pays highest tribute to ex-premier Li Peng

Far left: Then Premier Li Peng at a formal reception in Beijing in 1995. Left: Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing his condolences to Mr Li's family member in Beijing yesterday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing his condolences to Mr Li’s family member in Beijing yesterday.PHOTO: XINHUA
Far left: Then Premier Li Peng at a formal reception in Beijing in 1995. Left: Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing his condolences to Mr Li's family member in Beijing yesterday.
Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin seen paying his respects at Mr Li’s funeral during a news programme that was broadcast on a giant screen outside a Beijing mall yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Far left: Then Premier Li Peng at a formal reception in Beijing in 1995. Left: Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing his condolences to Mr Li's family member in Beijing yesterday.
A crowd at the gate of Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing during the funeral yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

China yesterday paid the highest tribute to the late former premier Li Peng, reviled by many for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown but eulogised by state media as an "outstanding revolutionary".

National flags flew at half-mast in various areas in Beijing, including Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People and the Foreign Ministry, as well as in provincial capitals, municipalities, Hong Kong and Macau.

He was cremated at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing yesterday after dying of an unspecified illness at the age of 90 last week.

President Xi Jinping, wearing a black suit with a matching armband and a white flower on his chest, bowed three times before circling Mr Li's remains, which was covered with the Communist Party's red hammer and sickle flag, according to state television footage.

Mr Xi then shook hands with bereaved family members, including Mr Li's eldest son, Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng, who stood in a queue in a hall bedecked with flowers.

"Li Peng was one of Xi Jinping's most ardent supporters, speaking up (for Mr Xi behind closed doors) multiple times" in the past, a party source told The Straits Times.

Television footage showed Premier Li Keqiang and the five other members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee - the pinnacle of power in China - paying their respects to Mr Li, one by one.

Flanked by two aides supporting him, former president Jiang Zemin and his wife, as well as Vice-President Wang Qishan, also offered their condolences to Mr Li's family, while scores of subordinates and family friends queued up to pay their respects.

 A crowd at the gate of Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in we
Then Premier Li Peng at a formal reception in Beijing in 1995. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Incumbent and retired leaders, including former president Hu Jintao, who was out of town, sent wreaths which were prominently displayed.

 
 

State media reported that leaders had also visited Mr Li while he was in hospital.

China's official Xinhua news agency described Mr Li as a "tried and tested, staunch communist warrior and an outstanding socialist revolutionary".

He served as premier from 1987 to 1998, and as chairman of the National People's Congress - China's Parliament - from 1998 to 2003.

But he is perhaps best known for declaring martial law on national television days before People's Liberation Army tanks and troops crushed student-led pro-democracy protests centred on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. In official obituaries, state media lauded his role in acting decisively to end the "political disturbance" of 1989.

Mr Li had "made decisive moves to stop the turmoil, end the counter-revolutionary riot and stabilise the domestic situation, and played an important role in the major struggle concerning the future and fate of the party and the state", said a front-page obituary in the People's Daily last week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2019, with the headline 'China pays highest tribute to ex-premier Li Peng'. Print Edition | Subscribe