Jiang Zemin: former Chinese president who stabilised China after Tiananmen protests dies aged 96

Jiang Zemin saw China through history-making changes from the return of Hong Kong to British rule in 1977 to Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001

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The former president of China Jiang Zemin has died at the age of 96.

Jiang Zemin was one of the major figures of Chinese history in recent decades and supported economic reforms that led to a decade of explosive growth.

Jiang rose to power after the bloody 1989 crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which led to China being ostracised internationally.

The event sparked a bitter power struggle at the top of China’s Communist Party between hard-line reactionaries and reformers. It led to Jiang, who had originally been seen as a plodding bureaucrat, being elevated to high office. He was chosen as a compromise leader in the hope he would unify hardliners and more liberal elements.

Jiang saw China through history-making changes including a revival of market-oriented reforms, the return of Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 and Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001.

His government jailed human rights, labour and pro-democracy activists and banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which it viewed as a threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

He stepped down as party chief in 2002 but remained head of the military for another year. Following his rule, he handed over power to Hu Jintao who was seen unexpectedly escorted out of a closing ceremony of the ruling Communist Party in October.

The former president was last seen in public in October 2019 among other former leaders watching a military parade at Tiananmen Square.

News of his death comes as China faces widespread anti-lockdown protests across the country on a level of a dissent which is likened to the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

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