Nation mourns the loss of late leader Jiang - RTHK
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Nation mourns the loss of late leader Jiang

2022-12-01 HKT 12:39
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  • Flags flew at half mast on key government buildings and Chinese embassies abroad. Photo: AFP
    Flags flew at half mast on key government buildings and Chinese embassies abroad. Photo: AFP
Chinese newspapers turned their front pages black on Thursday and flags were flown at half mast in mourning for the death of former president Jiang Zemin.

Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukaemia and multiple organ failure. He was 96. A date has yet to be set for his funeral.

The front page of the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily devoted its whole front page to Jiang, and carried a large picture of him wearing his trademark glasses.

"Beloved comrade Jiang Zemin will never be forgotten," it said in its headline, above a story republishing the official announcement of his death.

Flags flew at half mast on key government buildings and Chinese embassies abroad, while the home pages of e-commerce platforms Taobao and JD.com also turned black and white.

Speaking about Jiang’s legacy, a senior fellow from a Beijing-based think tank said the former president will be remembered for overseeing China during a time of impressive economic growth.

Einar Tangen from the Taihe Institute told RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme that the former leader was known for being outgoing, willing to engage with others and a departure from the usual, “stone-faced party member”.

“For many people, they saw a very outgoing person. He spoke in four languages, could read in two others. [He was] very willing to engage, sing, had a lot of characteristics, but he was extremely shrewd and sometimes people underestimated him,” Tangen said.

“He was a little bit of departure from the solemn, stone-faced party member that many were used to. Some liked it, some had their own reactions to it.

“But his legacy has tremendous power. It came at a time when China was rising, there are people who are looking back at it, they see, basically, either their own role in that era, or they look back, some with nostalgia – they would love to have double-digit growth and the explosiveness of the economy.”

Global leaders also had praise for the former president, with United Nations chief Antonio Guterres saying Jiang helped usher the Asian giant onto the global stage by joining the World Trade Organization and overseeing major economic growth.

"I will never forget Jiang Zemin's personal warmth and openness, as well as the excellent cooperation that I enjoyed as prime minister of Portugal with him to ensure the smooth transition of the handover to China of the administration of Macau," Guterres said.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Jiang was a "dear friend" to Russia. (Additional reporting by Reuters and AFP)