Former Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, has died at the age of 96, Chinese state media reported.
Jiang died at 12:13 pm (04:13 GMT) on Wednesday from leukaemia and multiple organ failure in the city of Shanghai, the official Xinhua news agency said, publishing a joint letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, cabinet and the military, announcing the death.
“Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying the announcement was made with “profound grief”.
It described “our beloved Comrade, Jiang Zemin,” as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter.
Flags at major Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and government buildings in China and worldwide will be flown at half-mast, state media reported.
The order, from Jiang’s funeral arrangement committee, applies from Wednesday until the date of his funeral, yet to be announced, according to state broadcaster, CCTV.
Jiang was plucked from obscurity to head the CCP after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.
Jiang, who was China’s president from 1993 to 2003, saw the country through historic changes, including a revival of market-oriented reforms, the return of Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 and its entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001. He also presided over the achievement of a long-cherished dream: winning the competition to host the Olympic Games after an earlier rejection.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said that following the news of Jiang’s death, government officials have stressed “his Communist Party credentials when they talk about him – but he’s remembered among the people as so much more”.
“He couldn’t have been any more different to the rather straight-faced or serious officials that we often see in China today; very different to China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, who sort of portrayed as an emperor.
“Jiang Zemin, by contrast, is seen as more of an every man,” Yu added. “He often spoke quite candidly and quite frequently to the press. He used English quite often, and he even gave entire speeches in English. He was fond of singing Italian songs in front of foreign dignitaries and it was well known that he played the piano, and would often make jokes when speaking publicly.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES