Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96

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China’s former leader Jiang Zemin, who came to power after the Tiananmen Square protests, has died at 96, reported BBC.

State media said he died just after noon in Shanghai on Wednesday.

One of the major figures in Chinese history in recent decades, he presided over a time when China opened up on a vast scale and saw high-speed growth.

His death comes as China sees some of its most serious protests since Tiananmen, with many demonstrating against Covid restrictions.

A Chinese Communist Party statement said he died of leukemia and multiple organ failure.

It added, as per the report, that he was recognised “as an outstanding leader with high prestige” and “a long-tested Communist fighter”.

Jiang rose to power after the bloody 1989 crackdown on protestors in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which led to China being ostracised internationally.

The event sparked a bitter power struggle at the top of the Communist Party between hard-line reactionaries and reformers.

It led to Jiang, who had originally been seen as a plodding bureaucrat, being elevated to high office. He was chosen as a compromise leader, in the hope he would unify hardliners and more liberal elements.

In a country not known for its flamboyant leaders, he was seen as having a more colourful personality than his successors. He memorably crooned Elvis Presley at a global summit and went for a swim off the Hawaiian coast, reads the BBC report.

In his later years, he withdrew from the government and was rarely seen in public. But even as he became less conspicuous, online he became an unlikely subject of viral internet memes.

Many Chinese affectionately caricatured his signature large spectacles and likened his appearance to a toad. Young fans called themselves “toad worshippers”. (BBC)

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