BEIJING (AP) — The remains of former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang are to be cremated on Thursday, with flags around the country to be flown at half-staff to mourn the official who helped guide the world’s second-largest economy for a decade.
Li died Friday of a heart attack at 68. Mourners gathered at his childhood home in the city of Hefei in an apparently spontaneous outpouring of grief seen by some as a rebuke of state leader and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.
Li was once seen as a potential top leader, but the trained economist was shunted aside in a leadership shakeup last year and replaced with Xi loyalist Li Qiang. Even before then, Xi had consolidated power and sidelined potential rivals with an anti-corruption campaign and by altering the constitution to allow himself to rule indefinitely.
Xi has also thoroughly reshuffled economic and financial leadership positions and set up an entity called the Central Financial Commission in moves that are seen as shifting power from other regulators such as the China Securities Regulatory Commission.
The death of the English-speaking Li who represented a generation of politicians schooled during a time of greater openness to liberal Western ideas, was seen by many observers to symbolize the shift toward stronger party controls.
Although he was the Communist Party’s second-ranking official, Li received far less attention from state media outlets than Xi. The two men never formed the sort of partnership that characterized the relationship between previous presidents and premiers.
Li was “extolled as an excellent (Communist Party) member, a time-tested and loyal communist soldier and an outstanding proletarian revolutionist, statesman and leader of the Party and the state,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. Flags will be lowered at government offices, including in the semi-autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macao and at Chinese consulates and embassies around the world, Xinhua said.
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