Disgraced Lin Biao still beyond the pale

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am

Hopes for the rehabilitation of Lin Biao - the enigmatic Communist leader anointed heir apparent by Chairman Mao Zedong but later branded a national traitor after an apparent coup attempt, were dashed yesterday when official media continued to describe a former ally of Lin's as 'counter-revolutionary'.

Xinhua yesterday announced the death of Li Zuopeng , a close ally of Lin and who was a war hero who fought Japanese and Kuomintang armies in the 1930s and 40s.

The report said Li died on January 3 at the age of 95.

The report briefly described Li's life but still referred him as a key member of the 'Lin Biao counter-revolutionary clique'. Li was detained in 1971 after Lin died in an airliner crash during what appeared to be a bid to defect to Soviet Russia.

Lin was killed when his plane crashed in Mongolia en route to Moscow. The exact cause of the crash is still a matter of intense speculation and followed what was thought to have been a failed assassination of Mao by Lin.

Li was sacked from all positions in 1973 and kicked out of the Communist Party after Lin's death. Li was sentenced to 17 years in jail in 1981 because he was considered a key member of the Lin Biao counter-revolutionary clique, Xinhua said.

The obituary published by Xinhua for a political leader usually serves as the party's final verdict of his or her political legacy. The reference to him as a 'counter-revolutionary' shows the authorities have no intention of reversing the verdict on Lin.

Lin - a founding father of the People's Republic of China and one of the People's Liberation Army's ablest generals, is also the most enigmatic Communist leader.

He was a decorated military hero in the war with Japan and won several decisive victories in the civil war.

He was raised to be Mao's right-hand man and became his heirapparent during the Cultural Revolution, wielding immense influence. But he fell out with Mao's wife, Jiang Qing , and his relationship with Mao also deteriorated.

The plane crash that killed him also killed his wife and son.

Hopes for at least a partial rehabilitation of Lin were raised when a December 2007 exhibition included him as one of the 10 marshals of the People's Liberation Army. But those hopes have not been realised.