Crackdown on Grieving: The Uncharted Path of Former Premier Li Keqiang Under Xi Jinping's Rule

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 11/01/2023
On Thursday, China will observe the lowering of flags to half-staff as a mark of mourning for the passing of former premier Li Keqiang, who will be cremated. However, Chinese authorities are taking measures to prevent the mourning from exceeding what they deem as appropriate levels.

Li, who held the position of the country's top economic official from 2013 until earlier this year, was widely regarded as a potential future leader. According to the New York Times, the individual in question faced a significant decrease in influence due to the actions of Xi Jinping, the leader of the Communist Party. Following the individual's recent passing, there was a notable expression of sorrow, which was interpreted as a form of implicit criticism towards Xi's governance.

Following the passing of Li, a significant number of social media posts underwent censorship in the subsequent days. This censorship encompassed posts that portrayed Li as a "great man" or a "good premier for the people," as well as any discussions pertaining to political or economic reform.

According to The Times, when a senior official passes away, it can create a period of tension within the Communist Party. The Tiananmen Square protests were triggered in 1989 following the death of Hu Yaobang, who had been compelled to resign as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China two years prior.

According to the Guardian, Li is perceived by many individuals in China as a proponent of free-market policies and a proponent of openness to the West. He is seen as symbolizing the alternative path that China's government, which is becoming more authoritarian, did not choose to follow. Universities across the nation have issued directives to their students, urging them to abstain from participating in public gatherings. According to CNN, individuals who are grieving the loss of Li have been placing flowers at his childhood home in Hefei and other sites. However, authorities are closely monitoring the gatherings, and certain impromptu memorials have been taken down.


According to Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine, there exists a significant amount of dissatisfaction among certain groups regarding Xi Jinping. However, expressing this discontent carries a substantial risk due to limited avenues for doing so. Expressing regret for Li's death allows for the opportunity to subtly address the matter.

According to the AP, prior to being replaced by Xi loyalist Li Qiang earlier this year, Li held the position of the party's second-ranked official. However, state media paid considerably less attention to Li compared to Xi. According to the Times, the news of the 68-year-old's death was initially given less priority in state media compared to other items such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom's visit and a new book from Xi.


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