Li Zhao, wife of reformist leader Hu Yaobang, dies at 96

Wife of reformist leader was also well-connected to the top leadership

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 9:06pm

Li Zhao, the wife of former leader Hu Yaobang, died on Saturday afternoon aged 96, according to her son.

“She passed away at 4:18 this afternoon. She was very peaceful and in no pain at all,” Hu Dehua told the South China Morning Post.

China’s official amnesia over the legacy of Hu Yaobang, the man whose death inspired the Tiananmen protests

Hu Yaobang was the Communist Party General Secretary before he was sacked in 1987 for sympathising with student protesters. His death in April 1989 triggered a wave of memorials and protests in Tiananmen Square, which were put down violently that June.

Hu was seen as a symbol of the party’s liberal faction. He played a leading role in vindicating people who were persecuted and punished during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of destructive social and political upheaval.

Li, who oversaw the country’s textile and garment industry, played a role in helping Hu receive petitions in the early 1980s, to the extent that her office in the capital became known as the “second petition reception office”.

The man who questioned Mao: Hu Yaobang's colleagues look back

She was known to walk to her office from home and eat at the canteen every day even when Hu was in power. She is understood to have played an important role due to her connections in the top rungs of power even after her husband died.

But Li also had a strong desire to stay out of the spotlight. Her calligraphy is carved on the back of Hu’s tombstone in Jiangxi province with the words: “Open and frank, selfless and without regret.”