Thu, Feb 21, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Hundreds attend funeral of Mao, CCP critic Li Rui

INDEPENDENT MIND:Li, who was Mao’s secretary in the 1950s before falling out with the CCP, was buried against his wishes with a communist flag draped over his casket

AFP, BEIJING

A man holds a banner praising Li Rui outside his funeral ceremony at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Hundreds of mourners yesterday paid their last respects to Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) former secretary Li Rui (李銳) at a funeral that went against the final wishes of a man who became a bold critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Despite the dearth of information on the time and place of the funeral, crowds lined up to see Li’s casket, which was draped under the red communist hammer-and-sickle flag at the Baobashan Revolutionary Cemetery for revolutionary heroes and party officials in Beijing.

Bundled in dark-coloured winter coats with white flowers pinned on their lapels, many were gray-haired and in their 70s — just one generation younger than Li, who died on Saturday at the age of 101.

“He is a good person,” said one of Li’s relatives, who only shared his surname Gu.

That is why so many “people have come to send him off on this last journey,” he said.

“The more old people there are in China like Li Rui, the better,” Gu said, describing Li as a proletarian revolutionary.

“He fought for his beliefs all his life — I think this is everyone’s right,” he added.

Inside the funeral parlor, Li’s body rested in a partially open casket.

Due to the large volume of mourners lining up to pay their respects, visitors were rushed into the room in small groups, where they bowed in front of Li’s casket and shook hands with his family members before being ushered out.

However, Li wanted to be buried in his hometown in Hunan province and would have been against having the Communist flag at his funeral, said his daughter, who boycotted the event.

“I believe that my father’s spirit is alive up in heaven, and definitely crying out and shouting as he looks down at the Li Rui covered by a party flag stained with the fresh blood of the people,” said Li Nanyang (李南央), who lives in San Francisco.

“As his daughter, I want to protect his personal dignity,” she said, adding that concerns about her personal safety is she returned to China also factored into her decision to avoid the funeral.

“Li Rui is a person who had an independent mind under the ironclad rule of the [Chinese] Communist Party,” she said.

Despite Li’s position alongside China’s paramount leader in the mid-1950s, he quickly fell out with the CCP after criticizing the failures of Mao’s Great Leap Forward policy, which unleashed havoc and famine across the country.

Li was expelled from the party and spent eight years in prison during the Cultural Revolution, but he was rehabilitated in 1979.

In the later years of his life, he became an outspoken advocate for political reform, publishing articles calling for the party to become a European-style socialist party.

In 2010, Li was part of a group of former top communist officials and media leaders who issued an open letter to China’s government that pointedly called for freedom of the press and expression.

Last year, Li was a rare prominent voice that opposed a constitutional change that removed presidential term limits and paved the way for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to stay in power indefinitely.

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