Communist Party elite pay tribute to late liberal leader’s wife

Chinese President Xi Jinping and rest of the Politburo Standing Committee attend funeral for Li Zhao, wife of Hu Yaobang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 11:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 11:49pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and all six other members of the Communist Party’s highest echelon were among the political heavyweights who paid tribute to the wife of late liberal-minded leader Hu Yaobang by attending her funeral on Friday, according to two sources.

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All seven members of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, and former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao also sent floral tributes for Li Zhao to the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, where the ashes of most senior cadres are kept.

They were among the hundreds of people, including former colleagues of Li and Hu Yaobang, who turned out for the funeral, with some waiting in line for hours to enter the memorial hall.

Li died on Saturday at age 96, her son Hu Dehua said.

Hu Yaobang was the party’s 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. Litook petitions on behalf of her husband in the early 1980s.

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“She was really easy to get along with, just like a sister,” said Wang Ying, 82, a retired worker who was rehabilitated in the 1980s with help from Li.

“I visited their home often. Li helped me to forward letters to Yaobang. She also wrote back to me. I never thought someone so unassuming could be the wife of the general secretary. I was just a worker.”

Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said the respect paid to Li by the top leadership did not carry any political weight beyond courtesy. “Li is the widow of Hu Yaobang, a former general secretary. Many senior leaders visited her every year before her death,” Zhang said. “But I don’t think it will mean any major change of policy.”