China’s Former President Jiang Zemin cremated in Beijing

(PTI) China’s former president Jiang Zemin was cremated here on Monday in the presence of the top leaders of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) including President Xi Jinping.

He was the President and General Secretary of the CPC from 1989 to 2002.

Jiang, who had leukemia, died of multiple organ failure on November 30 in Shanghai at the age of 96. His body was flown here by a special flight last week from Shanghai. Xi and other leaders received the body in Beijing.

The remains of Jiang were cremated at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing on Monday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

President Xi and other leaders of the Communist Party of China and the state paid their respects to Comrade Jiang at the Chinese PLA General Hospital before escorting Jiang’s body to the cemetery for cremation, the report said.

A memorial meeting to commemorate his life and achievements will be held at the Great Hall of People, the iconic building overlooking the sprawling Tiananmen square here on December 6 at 10 am local time.

Top leaders heading various organs of the CPC and the military will pay their respects.

During the memorial meeting, flags across the country, Chinese embassies, consulates and other institutions stationed abroad will fly at half-staff, and public entertainment activities will be suspended for one day.

People across the country will observe a 3-minute silence.

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In accordance with Chinese practice, foreign governments, political parties, and friendly personages will not be invited to send delegations or representatives to China to attend the mourning activities, an official announcement said earlier.

Jiang’s death comes as China sees some of its most serious protests since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, with many protesting against harsh Covid restrictions in the country.

There is a sense of disquiet in Beijing over anti-zero covid protests in which slogans calling for President Xi to step down have been raised.

Security has been beefed up in Beijing, Shanghai and several other cities which witnessed anti-zero covid measures, rattling the government as it prepared for Jiang’s memorial.

Deaths of top Chinese leaders including former premier Zhou Enlai and former General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) Hu Yaobang followed mass protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

While the military dispersed mass protests after Zhou died in 1976, hundreds of students were reported to have been killed in the 1989 Tiananmen square protests demanding democracy and freedom of speech following the death of Hu, the Communist leader who pursued political and economic reforms.

Police in Beijing announced last week that sections of the city will be closed to traffic for Monday and Tuesday as part of preparations for an official memorial service of Jiang.

Roads in much of the city’s west would be off-limits to public buses, trains, cars and pedestrians, with only designated vehicles and personnel allowed to use the routes, the announcement said.

The present CPC leadership followed the same pattern for the funeral of Deng Xiaoping, regarded as the country’s Paramount Leader for pioneering economic reforms.

Jiang was widely acclaimed for his leadership after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the two iconic leaders of the CPC, and credited with leading China out of isolation from the ignominy of the Chinese military crushing the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

He was also credited with putting China on a sustained path of economic development, laying the foundation to emerge as the second-largest economy in the world.

An official letter, which announced Jiang’s death on November 30, also called for strengthening the leadership of Xi.

Jiang’s death is an inestimable loss to our Party, our military and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, the letter published in the official media here said.

“We must rally around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core with greater resolve and purpose, and adhere to the Party’s basic theory, basic line, and basic policy,” the letter said.

“We must develop a deep understanding of the decisive significance of establishing Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and establishing the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” the letter said.

Xi, 69, was re-elected for an unprecedented third consecutive term by a once-in-a-five-year Congress of the CPC in October this year.

All Xi’s predecessors, including Jiang, retired after two five-year terms, though Jiang continued as head of the military for two years after he relinquished the Presidency in 2002.

In 13 years as party general secretary, China’s most powerful post, Jiang guided the country’s rise to economic power by welcoming capitalists into the ruling party and pulling in foreign investment after China joined the WTO. China passed Germany and then Japan to become the second-largest economy after the United States.

Jiang gave up his last official title in 2004 but remained a force behind the scenes in the wrangling that led to the rise of current President Xi, who took power in 2012.

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