HomeUKChina to come to standstill for late leader Jiang Zemin’s memorial

China to come to standstill for late leader Jiang Zemin’s memorial

Sirens will sound across China as the country comes to a standstill on Tuesday for a public memorial service for former leader Jiang Zemin, who died last week at the age of 96.

A public memorial service is being held at 10am local time in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and broadcast live, state broadcaster CCTV said. “All regions and departments must organise the majority of party members, cadres, and the masses to listen and watch,” CCTV added.

Flags will be flown at half-mast across the country as well as at Chinese government buildings overseas.

A nationwide three-minute silence will be held with sirens sounding.

Jiang oversaw a transformational era from the late 1980s into the new millennium, taking power in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and leading China towards its emergence as a powerhouse on the global stage.

He died in Shanghai on Wednesday last week of leukaemia and multiple organ failure after medical treatments failed, according to state media.

Xi Jinping and other CCP leaders pay their final respects to Jiang Zemin at the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, on Monday. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

His body was cremated on Monday in Beijing at a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping and other top leaders, including his predecessor Hu Jintao, state news agency Xinhua said.

The appearance by Hu was his first in public since 22 October, when he was unexpectedly guided off the stage during the closing ceremony of the national congress of the Communist party.

No official explanation was given, and speculation over the incident has run from a health crisis to preventing an attempted protest against Xi by the 79-year-old former leader.

Chinese president Xi Jinping, left, chats with Jiang Zemin in 2017.
Chinese president Xi Jinping, left, chats with Jiang Zemin in 2017. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

After the ceremony at a military hospital, Jiang’s body was sent for cremation at Babaoshan cemetery, where many top leaders are interred.

Stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen will suspend trading for the duration of Tuesday’s silence, as will the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s bourse will suspend the display of data on external screens at its offices for three minutes while senior executives observe the silence.

Public entertainment will also be suspended on Tuesday, with some online games such as the popular League of Legends announcing a day’s pause.

Mourners place flower bouquets outside the old home of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, in Yangzhou, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, on Monday.
Mourners place flower bouquets outside the old home of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, in Yangzhou, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, on Monday. Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

A heavy security presence is expected in Beijing, after anti-Covid lockdown protests last week became the most widespread public demonstrations in China since rallies calling for political reform in 1989.

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.

But state media have 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.”

On Thursday Jiang’s body was flown to Beijing where it was met at the airport by Xi and other top leaders, footage from CCTV showed.

Wearing matching black armbands with a white flower pinned to their jackets, Xi and colleagues bowed in unison as Jiang was brought off the plane, his trademark heavy-rimmed glasses clearly visible through a glass coffin.

In retirement, Jiang had become the subject of light-hearted memes among millennial and Gen Z Chinese fans, who called themselves “toad worshippers” in thrall to his frog-like countenance and quirky mannerisms.

More than half a million commenters flooded CCTV’s post announcing his death on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo within an hour, many referring to him as “Grandpa Jiang”.

After the announcement, the websites of state media and government-owned businesses turned black-and-white, as did apps such as Alipay, Taobao and even McDonald’s China.

With Agence France-Presse and Associated Press

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