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China pays tribute to ex-president Jiang Zemin

On this day of national mourning, the police made sure to avoid any large gathering, after the wave of demonstrations against health restrictions.

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China pays tribute to ex-president Jiang Zemin

On this day of national mourning, the police made sure to avoid any large gathering, after the wave of demonstrations against health restrictions.

The memorial ceremony, broadcast live on television, took place at the People's Palace in Beijing where a huge portrait of the former leader was installed, accompanied by slogans and floral offerings.

"He devoted his whole life and energy to the Chinese people, to the struggle for national independence, people's liberation, national prosperity and people's happiness," President Xi Jinping told an assembly of senior officials. Chinese dignitaries, all masked.

"The Communist Party of China Central Committee calls on the entire Chinese party, military and people of all ethnic groups to turn grief into strength," he added.

In the front row was Jiang Zemin's widow, Wang Yeping, in a wheelchair.

- "Very important leader" -

While the authorities have recently been confronted with a protest movement on an unprecedented scale since the pro-democracy mobilizations of Tiananmen in 1989, the figure of Jiang Zemin seems to be unifying. Craftsman of the arrival of China on the world scene, he is also the one who knew how to restore calm in Shanghai in 1989.

He took power following this episode, accompanying the transformation of the most populous nation on the planet into a world power, which he led until 2003.

He died Nov. 30 in Shanghai from leukemia and multiple organ failure, according to state media.

His body was cremated Monday in Beijing, in a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders, according to the state news agency China News.

Former President Hu Jintao -- whose abrupt exit from the People's Palace in October during the party congress drew international attention -- was also present.

All day, the flags are at half mast and recreational activities suspended.

In Yangzhou (South), Jiang Zemin's hometown, a hundred people gathered in front of his former residence to observe the moment of silence, before being dispersed by the police.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges suspended trading for three minutes, while hundreds of ships sounded their sirens in the port of Hong Kong.

At Scientia College in Hong Kong, several hundred students and faculty gathered for a tribute to Jiang Zemin. It was under his mandate that the British retrocession of this territory, today a semi-autonomous Chinese region, took place.

“We Hong Kongers have strong feelings for President Jiang, who has visited Hong Kong many times, including attending the handover ceremony,” said one of the teachers.

Kate Leung, a 16-year-old student, said she observed the moment of silence "with gratitude" to the former president, "a very important leader".

- "A more tolerant era" -

Popular with younger generations of Chinese, Jiang Zemin divides the population as to his heritage.

He is accused of failing to address the problems generated by China's economic leap, such as corruption, inequality, environmental impact and layoffs due to state industry reforms.

Under his mandate, the repression of political activists has also become more ferocious.

“The Jiang era, even if it was not the most prosperous, was more tolerant”, however assured a user on the social network Weibo, equivalent of Twitter in China.

“I have heard a lot of criticism from him, but the fact that he has allowed critical voices to exist shows how praiseworthy he is,” he added, as authorities now hunt. participants in protests against anti-Covid restrictions.

Ever since he was retired, Jiang Zemin had been fondly viewed by his fans of younger Chinese generations, who called themselves "toad devotees", fascinated by his batrachian-like countenance and eccentric mannerisms.

On Weibo, many netizens commented on his passing, calling him "Grandfather Jiang".

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