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Politics

92-year-old Jiang Zemin makes rare appearance at Li Peng funeral

Hu Jintao a no-show, fueling concerns about ex-president's health

Former Chinese Premier Li Peng, left, and former President Jiang Zemin appear at the closing session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in 2017. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BEIJING -- Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin was among the Communist Party leaders attending Monday's funeral for Li Peng, the premier during the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown who died last week at age 90.

The official Chinese Central Television showed the 92-year-old Jiang being ushered into the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery by two helpers. The ex-premier was cremated there.

Current President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and the five other members of the Politburo Standing Committee, as well as Vice President Wang Qishan, were also in attendance.

Jiang, who served as president from 1993 to 2003, rarely makes public appearances these days, feeding rumors of poor health. But he seemed able to walk, albeit with assistance.

Hu Jintao, Xi's immediate predecessor, was not in Beijing and sent a wreath, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. He is also rumored to be in bad health, and his influence is said to be declining.

Current party leaders and retired officials are expected to attend an annual gathering at the Beidaihe summer resort in early August to discuss key policy issues. Attendance by Jiang and Hu will be closely watched as an indicator of their standing in political circles.

The Chinese flag flew at half-staff at Tiananmen Square, the center of the pro-democracy demonstrations 30 years ago.

In an obituary after his July 22 death, Xinhua praised Li's leadership during the Tiananmen demonstrations, for making "decisive moves to stop the turmoil, end the counter-revolutionary riot and stabilize domestic situation."

"Li was extolled in the [official] statement as an excellent Party member, a time-tested and loyal communist soldier and an outstanding proletarian revolutionist, statesman and leader of the Party and the state," the Xinhua obituary said.

The grand ceremony held for Li suggests that Beijing has not disavowed the decision to use armed force.

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