China mourns former leader Jiang Zemin with bouquets, black front pages
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Chinese newspapers blacked out their front pages on Thursday and flags were flown at half-mast in mourning for the death of former president Jiang Zemin, as well-wishers laid piles of flowers outside his childhood home.
Jiang died in his hometown of Shanghai shortly after noon Wednesday of leukemia and multiple organ failure, aged 96.
His death caused a wave of nostalgia for the relatively more liberal times he presided over.
A date for his funeral has not yet been set.
The front page of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper devoted its entire front page to Jiang and featured a large photo of him wearing his trademark “frog” glasses.
“Beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin will never be forgotten,” read the headline above a material republishing the official announcement of his death.
Flags were flown at half-mast at key government buildings and Chinese embassies abroad, while the homepages of e-commerce platforms Taobao and JD.com also turned black and white.
Mourners laid piles of bouquets of white chrysanthemums, a traditional Chinese symbol of mourning, outside Jiang’s home in the eastern city of Yangzhou, a witness told Reuters, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of discussing anything political in China.
Some people knelt outside his house as a sign of respect, the person added.
“Grandpa Jiang, rest in peace,” read a note on one bouquet.
In Shanghai, where Jiang died, police closed off streets but hundreds of people were still trying to catch a glimpse of a vehicle believed to be carrying his body, according to images shared on Chinese social media.
In one photo, people hold up a black-and-white banner reading “Comrade Jiang Zemin, you will live forever in our hearts.”
FOREIGNERS ARE NOT INVITED
But foreign governments, political parties and “friendly personalities” will not be invited to send delegations or representatives to China to attend the mourning activities, the official Xinhua news agency said.
At one of China’s biggest foreign banks, employees were asked to wear black to meetings with regulators, senior officials were asked not to be photographed at parties and the bank suspended marketing activities for 10 days, a senior executive at the lender told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Jiang’s death comes at a tumultuous time in China, where authorities are grappling with rare widespread street protests among residents fed up with the harsh containment of COVID-19 nearly three years after the pandemic began.
China is also in an increasingly vicious standoff with the United States and its allies over everything from Chinese threats to a democratically-ruled Taiwan to trade and human rights issues.
While Jiang could have a ferocious temper, his jocular side, where he would sometimes sing about foreign dignitaries and joke with them, is in stark contrast to his more hard-line successor Hu Jintao and current President Xi Jinping.
“Having someone educated as a leader is really a good thing, RIP,” one WeChat user wrote, adding a candle emoji.
Some Chinese social media users posted photos and videos of Jiang speaking or laughing, as well as articles about his 1997 speech at Harvard University in English, recalling an era when China and the West were on better terms. relations.
The US and Japanese governments expressed their condolences.
US National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said that during his two visits to the United States as president, as well as numerous other meetings with US officials, Jiang had worked to advance ties “while managing our differences – an imperative that continues today.”
Even Taiwan, which Jiang threatened with war games on the eve of the island’s first direct presidential election in 1996, said it sent its “best wishes” to Jiang’s family, although it added that he was indeed “threatening development of Taiwan’s democratic system and foreign power exchanges’.
Reports from Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Additional reporting by Engen Tham; Written by Yu Lun Tien and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Michael Perry
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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