Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin has died aged 96, local media has reported. He passed away “due to leukemia and multiple organ failure” in Shanghai today. State media outlet Xinhua said he was also fighting leukaemia, and that “all medical treatments had failed”.
CCP officials announced his death in a party-wide letter.
According to Xinhua, the letter proclaimed “profound grief” on behalf of “the whole Party, the entire military and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups”.
The letter added that he was an “outstanding leader enjoying high prestige acknowledged by the whole Party, the entire military and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, a great Marxist, a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, military strategist and diplomat, a long-tested communist fighter, and an outstanding leader of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
The document concluded: “He was the core of the CPC’s third generation of central collective leadership and the principal founder of the Theory of Three Represents.”
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Jiang had a storied premiership that saw him take power following the brutal 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
He replaced Zhao Ziyang as the Chinese Communist Party’s general secretary in the wake of his support of the student movement, which called for a significant overhaul of China’s political framework.
The premier was seen as a compromise candidate who would help to unite fractured sects of the CCP.
Jiang eventually became China’s “paramount leader”, and further opened up the country’s economy during the “third generation”.
He became the generation’s “core”, with the general secretary, chairman and central military commission chief roles consolidated into one person for the first time since 1982.
Among his other notable actions as premier was the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, when the UK handed the special administrative region to China.
The most controversial aspect of his reign came during the rise of Falun Gong cult, which was perceived as a threat to the party.
He was accused of encouraging the heavy-handed crackdown of the group in the early 2000s.
The campaign prompted accusations of human rights abuses during his rule.
When he stepped down in 2002 for a peaceful transfer of power to Hu Jintao, the Chinese Government had spent years jailing human rights, pro-democracy and labour activists.
Some reacted with sadness to the news, making emotional tributes to the former President.
Twitter user Hao Wu said: “He only made small contribution but has gained his place amongst the other historic CPC figures.”
Another user simply said: “Another great man has left.”
Romanian diplomat Andrei Tarnea recounted a moment with the former President.
He said: “The longest state dinner I had ever attended in my diplomatic career was offered by the (Chinese) President Jiang Zemin in Beijing for the (Romanian) President and delegation.
“The dialogue that preceded it was highly enlightening for the emerging foreign and economic policy agendas.”