Jiang Zemin, a former president of China who took over after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of protesters, died Wednesday at age 96 with his country again gripped by its fiercest protests in decades.
Jiang, who led China for a decade beginning in 1993 and headed its Communist Party for 13 years, died from leukemia and multiple organ failure, the party reported through state media.
Jiang is noted for launching the ongoing crackdown on the Falun Gong religious movement, which has seen allegations of torture and organ harvesting leveled against the Chinese state.
Nicknamed “Toad” for his supposed resemblance to the animal, Jiang was known as a more colorful figure than Chinese leaders before and since, often singing and speaking in foreign languages.
His rule saw the U.K. and Portugal hand over control of Hong Kong and Macau; China’s contentious entry into the World Trade Organization; and the securing of the 2008 Summer Olympics for Beijing.
In its announcement, the CCP described Jiang as “a great proletarian revolutionist, statesman, military strategist, diplomat, and a long-tested communist fighter.”
Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai, where he had been party leader before being hand-picked in 1989 to replace an ousted national party leader who sympathized with Tiananmen Square protesters. He became the president of China four years later.
His body was carried through the streets of Beijing on Thursday, the Guardian reported. That’s a possible indication the Chinese regime is confident that mourning for Jiang, who ruled a more liberal China than exists today, won’t fuel ongoing protests over the country’s strict zero-COVID policies.
The death of a liberal Chinese leader had triggered the demonstrations that led to the Tiananmen Square incident, when the military is believed to have killed thousands of protesters.