Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping’s siblings among Chinese elite paying tribute to late princeling Chen Xiaolu

Hundreds of mourners turn out for funeral of official turned businessman who died on Wednesday, aged 71

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 8:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 3:34pm

Dozens of China’s political elite, including the younger brother of President Xi Jinping, turned out on Sunday to pay their respects to the late Chinese princeling Chen Xiaolu.

Chen was the youngest son of Marshall Chen Yi, who fought alongside Mao Zedong in the civil war and helped build Communist China. He died from a heart attack in Sanya, Hainan province, on Wednesday at the age of 71.

A Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution and a businessman in his later years, Chen retired from public office in 1992, but remained a well-connected and influential figure.

His funeral was held in the memorial hall of the Hainan branch of the People’s Liberation Army’s 301 Hospital. Its main branch, in Beijing, is where all of China’s leaders and senior officials go for medical treatment.

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Among the hundreds of mourners – many of whom had made the four-hour plane journey from Beijing to say their final farewells – was Xi Yuanping. Sources said the Chinese leader’s younger sibling paid a personal tribute to Chen, and along with other princelings visited the deceased’s family.

The term “princeling” is used in China to describe the descendants of prominent and influential communist officials.

The Xi brothers are sons of Xi Zhongxun, who also fought alongside Mao in the civil war. Although Xi Yuanping does not hold an official title, he sometimes acts as a representative of the Xi family at lower-level official and non-official events, mostly those related to the nation’s revolutionary heroes or their families.

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Another princeling who attended Chen’s funeral was Kong Dan, the erstwhile chairman of the state-owned Citic Group and Everbright Bank, whose father Kong Yuan was an intelligence officer during China’s communist revolution.

Wang Qishan, the son-in-law of a first generation revolutionary, who steered the country’s anti-graft campaign and is now hotly tipped to become Xi Jinping’s vice-president, sent a funeral wreath.

Former vice-president Zeng Qinghong, a princeling himself, and Xi’s sister Qi Qiaoqiao, who goes by their mother’s surname, also sent flowers.

Among others who sent wreaths included incumbent People’s Bank of China’s Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who went to the same high school with Chen and Ma Kai, also a princeling and a vice-premier.

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Despite his position as a princeling, Chen was known for speaking his mind, and in 2013 made a public apology for his role in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

At that time he was a student leader of a controversial Red Guard Police Corp in Beijing’s Xicheng district. His apology was directed mostly at the teachers and lecturers who were targeted during the period, although he said he had also done his best to protect them from his more radical peers.

In the 1980s, Chen joined the Research Office for Political Reform under the party’s Central Committee where he was tasked with researching political reforms under the late liberal leader Zhao Ziyang. He left when the office was dismantled in 1989, following a purge of liberal cadres in the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing on June 4 that year.

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Outside China, Chen attracted media attention mostly for his ties to Anbang, the troubled Chinese insurance group, which at the height of its global expansion bought New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Hen was listed as one of its early directors on company registry records, when it was a modest car insurance firm. In a statement on social media in early 2015, he said he was only an “adviser” to the company and held no shares in it.

Anbang was taken over by the government last month, following the removal of its chairman Wu Xiaohui who is now facing criminal prosecution for alleged fraud and embezzlement.