The outgoing chairman of the National People's Congress, Li Peng, has high hopes that a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics will be in place by 2010. Delivering his last report yesterday, Mr Li said the NPC had built a basic legal framework that would make this possible. His speech marked the end of a long career spanning much of China's reform era, during which he was often seen as a counterbalance to change. Mr Li is destined to be remembered for declaring martial law in 1989 and allowing the army to enter Beijing, where it fired on students and civilians in Tiananmen Square. Mr Li has not bothered much to polish his dour public image. The Chinese media has described him as diligent, and once showed a picture of him mending his own coat, a skill he acquired in the tough revolutionary base of Yanan. Born in 1928, Mr Li was orphaned at the age of three when his father was tortured and executed by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Army. He was adopted by Zhou Enlai and later studied in the former Soviet Union. His early career was spent in the power supply industry. Elected to the Communist Party Central Committee in 1982, he rose to the Politburo and on to the elite Standing Committee. He served two terms as premier (1988-1998) and one term as chairman of the NPC (1998-2003). At the 16th Party Congress last November, he, along with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, were not elected to the party's Central Committee, signalling their retirement at the current session of the NPC. He is expected to be succeeded by Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo. Mr Li's Soviet education and his early career in the power supply industry lead him to central economic planning. He has been a strong advocate of the controversial Three Gorges Dam project. During his tenure as chairman of the NPC, Mr Li achieved an impressive legislative record. Over the past five years, the standing committee has reviewed 124 bills and passed 109. In recent years, his name has been linked to several high-level corruption scandals. His protege Gao Yan, general manager of China National Power Corporation, has been missing since a probe into his alleged embezzlement was launched last year. Some of Mr Li's family were also said to have used their connections to enrich themselves. In January, on what would have been the 100th birthday of his mother Zhao Juntao, who died in 1985, Mr Li penned a long article in which he described her final moment. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she muttered: 'Beware of the dogs.' Mr Li wrote: 'I understood what she meant. Dogs referred to special agents and traitors. She warned me not to forget the harm caused by the dogs in the past, and to watch out for the making of new dogs.' Many observers were rankled by the comment, considering it a sign that party conservatives were making a play for power. NPC deputies were circumspect in commenting on Mr Li's performance following his speech yesterday. 'He is hard-working and conscientious,' said the governor of Henan province, Li Chengyu, noting that Mr Li had often visited the local units on fact-finding and study missions. Lu Dong, a delegate from Shaanxi province, said history would be the judge of Mr Li's role in the Tiananmen incident. 'With the passage of time what actually transpired in 1989 will become clearer,' he said.