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Le Peng Delivers His Final Speech to Legislature

Posted March. 10, 2003 22:16,   


It was dark snowy day in Beijing, China, Lee Peng, 75-year-old chairman of Politburo Standing Committee, was full of mixed emotion as he delivered his final speech during the 10th National People`s Congress on March 10.

“I hope that you will join forces under the leadership by secretary general Hu Jintao and achieve a goal of building Chinese socialism,” he said at the end of his one-hour report. Then he passed a cabinet reform bill as planned, carrying out his final duty.

At the first day of the congress on March 5, he already pronounced that he has done his job, making it clear that he would retire.

Li is from a family devoted to the early communist movement. Li`s father was a party activist who was killed by Nationalists after leading Nanchang Revolt with Jouenrai and Judei in 1927.

Le was then adopted by childless Zhou Enlai, the future premier of Communist China. In 1948 Li was sent to the Soviet Union where he studied at the Moscow Power Institute, returning in 1955 to a China firmly under Communist control. Chou, Li`s foster father, died in 1976, but his widow Deng Yingchao exerted her own powerful influence to push Li higher and higher in the Communist hierarchy.

Helped by such connections, Li rose quickly in politics and was named to the party`s ruling Politburo Standing Committee in 1987. Despite his ascendancy, however, he remained one of many communist leaders to most of Chinese people until the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

He declared martial law on May 20, 1989, and troops opened fire killing hundreds and possibly thousands of demonstrators. He made his hard-stance case against then general secretary Zhao Ziyang and became a widely unpopular politician.

Li emerged on the winning side of a party power struggle as general secretary Zhao Ziyang was forced aside. Deng however, summoned Jiang from Shanghai as his surprise replacement, seeing that Li, labeled as the butcher of Beijing, was not the best fit for reformist China.

After Li became chairman of the legislature in 1998, Li`s family and associates were charged for taking bribes involving the construction of Three Gorge Dam.

Despite the widely negative view, however, people knowing Lee well said that he has been a hard-working leader often working late at night. Many in Beijing also agreed that this subdued ending is a striking contrast for Li, who has been part of the inner circle of Chinese politics for 15 years.

Yoo-Sung Hwang yshwang@donga.com