China media praise reformer whose death sparked Tiananmen

The scene of a lone man in front of a row of tanks, taken by former news cameraman Willie Phua, became an iconic image representing the Tiananmen protests.

BEIJING, April 15, 2013 (AFP) - Reformist Chinese leader Hu Yaobang, whose death led to the 1989 Tiananmen protests, was offered rare praise by a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party on Monday, the anniversary of his demise.

Hu, general secretary of the party when Deng Xiaoping was China’s paramount leader, remains a sensitive figure because of his link to the democracy demonstrations, which authorities quashed with military force and suppress mention of even today.

He was dismissed in 1987 after allowing students in Beijing to hold initial protests, and new rallies erupted after his passing.

But on Monday the Communist party posted a photo slideshow of Hu on its website, while the Liberation Daily, which is run by the propaganda bureau of the Shanghai Communist Party, highlighted other aspects of his career.

It praised Hu for working to rehabilitate purged officials – which helped bring the party out of the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution – and for initiating a drive for openness and reform.

“Hu Yaobang sped up reform and opening and sped up economic development for China, and put all of his heart and energy into it,” it said, adding that his efforts were relevant today as China’s leaders also push for change.

Since taking over as party chief and national president in recent months, Xi Jinping has touted reform in terms of fighting official graft, restructuring the economy and better serving the people.

“One point is quite similar to Hu Yaobang’s time of pressing for reform: reform faced similarly major resistance,” the Liberation Daily said.

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