Hundreds of mourners lined the streets and laid flowers near the childhood home of former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday, the day after he died of a heart attack.
Li was born in Hefei, Anhui Province, central China, where he spent most of his childhood and youth. Throughout the night people came to his former residence with bunches of chrysanthemums and other flowers. Some bowed to him, others wept.
The road outside the residence was closed to traffic, and the line stretched for hundreds of meters.
Li, 68, has been the top economic official for a decade and has helped guide the world’s second-largest economy through difficulties such as growing political, economic and military tensions with the United States and the pandemic. of COVID-19.
An economist who speaks perfect English, he belongs to a generation of politicians trained at the time more open to Western liberal ideas. He entered politics during the turbulent Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 and entered the prestigious Peking University on his own merits, rather than political influences, where he studied law and economics.
A decade ago he was seen as communist leader Hu Jintao’s chosen successor to the presidency. But the need to balance the factions in the party led the leadership to choose Xi Jinping, the son of the former vice premier, as the consensus candidate.
Li and Xi have never publicly expressed disagreement on fundamental issues, but neither have they formed a close partnership like Hu’s with his premier, Wen Jiabao, or Mao Zedong with the dubious Zhou Enlai. .
In October 2022, Li was removed from the Standing Committee at a party congress, despite being more than two years away from reaching 70, the unofficial retirement age.
He resigned in March and was replaced by Li Qiang, a Xi crony from his time in a provincial government.
His departure marks a shift, in which skilled technocrats running the economy have been replaced by officials known for their absolute loyalty to Xi.
Associated Press researcher Chen Wanqing in Beijing contributed to this report.