Former Chinese propaganda chief Deng Liqun dies at 100

BEIJING (AFP) - Former Chinese propaganda chief and communist hardliner Deng Liqun, a fierce critic of the economic reforms championed by late leader Deng Xiaoping, died Tuesday at the age of 100, state media reported.

Known as "Little Deng" to distinguish him from "Old Deng", he passed away Tuesday afternoon in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party said in a statement, according to the Xinhua news agency.

In a brief two-paragraph dispatch, Xinhua said Deng Liqun "was praised in the statement as an excellent party member, a time-tested and loyal communist soldier, a proletarian revolutionist, an outstanding leader in the Party's ideological and theoretical publicity work, and a Marxist theorist."

Deng Liqun joined the Communist Party in 1936 and following the victory of Mao Zedong's forces in 1949 worked in the far west region of Xinjiang where he helped to put down Muslim resistance to Communist rule.

He was purged during the chaotic Cultural Revolution but was rehabilitated in the 1970s. The hardline leftist served as party propaganda chief from 1982 to 1985 and played a key role in purging liberal intellectuals.

He was also a vocal opponent of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms.

In 1995, he distributed an internal document charging that uninhibited economic development triggered by the paramount leader's reforms risked ruining the party and socialism.

In another document distributed before Deng Xiaoping's death in February 1997, he accused the leader and his protege, then-president Jiang Zemin, of the possible destruction of the party.

He was barred from Deng's funeral, ironically along with former party secretary Zhao Ziyang whom he had helped oust after the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.

In 2001, he attacked Jiang's attempt to allow capitalist entrepreneurs to join the party.

In an open letter, he accused Jiang of violating Communist Party regulations and predicted the death of the party if Jiang's theory was embraced and slammed the "cult of personality" around the leader.

The Internet letter railed against the corruption within the party which had flourished since China began economic reforms 20 years earlier, and which remains a major problem.

"Private entrepreneurs have long ago established ties with members of the Communist Party in an exchange of money for power," the letter said.

"By entering the Chinese Communist Party, corruption in China will become more open, the party will become even more corrupt with every level of the party wanting private entrepreneurs to become party members."

A hardliner to the end, in August last year he wrote a letter praising five Xinjiang Uighurs who helped the communists in the region and who died on a flight to Beijing in 1949.

In the letter to the party leadership in Xinjiang, he also praised the fight against separatism in the region, the South China Morning Post reported at the time.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.