China comes to standstill for late leader Jiang’s memorial

Published December 7, 2022
Beijing: People take part in a memorial service for China’s former leader Jiang Zemin at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday.—AFP
Beijing: People take part in a memorial service for China’s former leader Jiang Zemin at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday.—AFP

BEIJING: Sirens wailed across China as the country came to a standstill on Tuesday during a public memorial service for former leader Jiang Zemin, a tentative moment of unity after anti-lockdown protests shook the nation last week.

Jiang, who died in Shanghai last Wednesday at the age of 96, oversaw a transformational era from the late 1980s into the new millennium.

He took power in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and led China towards its emergence as a powerhouse on the global stage.

A public memorial service began at 10am on Tuesday in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and was broadcast live across the country. A nationwide “three-minute silence” was held, as sirens sounded. Flags across the country were at half-mast as well as at Chinese government buildings overseas.

Stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen were set to suspend trading for three minutes, as was the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s bourse suspended the display of data on external screens at its offices while senior executives observed the silence. Public entertainment is also suspended on Tuesday, with some online games such as the popular League of Legends announcing a day’s pause.

Jiang’s role in crushing the 1989 protests and repressing other political activism, as well as the flourishing of corruption and inequality during his tenure, means he leaves a mixed legacy.

Beijing’s state media has hailed Jiang as a great communist revolutionary, highlighting his part in quelling “serious political turmoil”. “Jiang Zemin was an outstanding leader enjoying high prestige,” read a Xinhua biography titled “Jiang Zemin’s great, glorious life”.

“During his revolutionary career of more than 70 years, he remained unswervingly firm in communist ideals, utterly loyal to the party and the people, and resolutely committed to the cause of the party and the people.” Jiang died of leukaemia and multiple organ failure after medical treatments failed, according to state media.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2022

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