An official news agency yesterday ran a rare eulogy to late Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang, ahead of the Ching Ming festival and the anniversary of his death later this month.
A liberal in the Communist Party, Hu was forced to resign as general party secretary in 1987 and remains a sensitive figure in mainland politics. The outpouring of grief following his death in 1989 developed into the Tiananmen Square student movement in the ensuing months.
In the run-up to the party's once-a-decade changing of the guard in autumn, liberals have revived Hu's words as they try to relaunch reforms seen as having stalled in recent years.
The China News Service report described the scene at Hu's mausoleum in Gongqing, Jiangxi province, in recent days. 'We come here every year,' the agency quoted Zhuo Yuhuan as saying. 'Now, as parents, we bring our child. We want our children to think of Hu Yaobang as the backbone of China.'
Another mourner, a former state-owned-company official from Nanchang, said: 'Hu Yaobang honoured his idea of the people's welfare from his days of revolution to his days as state leader. That's why we come to pay our respects.'
In his official obituary, Hu is described as a staunch communist, a great proletarian revolutionary and statesman, and an outstanding political leader of the People's Liberation Army. Yet it is rare to see any mention of Hu in official media as his death is associated with the Tiananmen protests in 1989, another taboo topic.
Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Renmin University, said the article signalled to party leadership to take a more liberal approach and push forward reform: 'It is a good sign. I don't know when and how they are going to make reforms, but I think the leadership are considering it by sending such signals. Hopes are high for the new leadership.'
But Liu Yanning of the Institute of Chinese Culture said: 'That's what people want to see but I don't think the agency has sent any important political signals in the past. It's probably just a decision at the agency.'
President Hu Jintao ordered an official commemoration event for the 90th anniversary of Hu's birth in 2005. Premier Wen Jiabao wrote an emotional eulogy to the late leader two years ago.