Beijing (AsiaNews) - All seven members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China attended a ceremony marking the centenary of the birth of Hu Yaobang, the late reformist leader who was purged for tolerating “bourgeois liberalisation” in the 1980s.
The popular leader’s death in 1989 sparked the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement and his name remained taboo for years. However, at yesterday’s event, Xi paid tribute to the late party chief, calling him “a time-tested loyal Communist fighter and a great proletarian revolutionist”.
Xi said the party was commemorating Hu for his “firm belief, idealism and his high morals”, stressing that party members must also have a strong and unshakable belief in Communism and stick to party discipline.
The atmosphere in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was “very, very moving”, said a source close to the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the South China Morning Post.
Veteran liberal party elder Du Daozheng, who used to work under Hu, said he was surprised by the scale and level of yesterday’s commemoration. Du said the praise for Hu was a tribute to and endorsement of the “opening and reform” era.
Born on 20 November 1915 into a poor peasant family, Hu took part in the Long March alongside Mao Zedong. However, unlike the Great Helmsman, Hu had a reputation of greater open-mindedness.
Thus, after Mao’s death in 1976, he began to rehabilitate the victims of political persecution (anti-rightist campaigns of 1957, and the Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976). One of the people "rehabilitated" was Deng Xiaoping.
When the latter took over the reins of power in 1978, Hu, with Zhao Ziyang and Xi Zhongxun (father of the current President Xi Jinping), prepared the ground for the economic reforms that transformed China’s Stalinist statist model into a market economy.
In 1981, Hu became Communist Party chairman, a post renamed general secretary in 1982, until 1987. Under his rule, Chinese had greater access to the rest of the world.
One of his reforms would see state, party and business differentiated. However, after accusing him of “polluting” the minds of the people, conservatives forced him to quit as secretary general in 1987.
When he died on 15 April 1989, millions of people came together to honour him, sparking the pro-democracy that was crushed in the Tiananmen massacre.