Former Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, a voice for openness, reform and engagement has passed away in Shanghai on Friday, following a heart attack.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has announced that Li, 68, passed away after suffering a heart attack a day earlier. State news agency Xinhua made the announcement shortly after 8 am local time.
The former premier is credited with guiding the Chinese economy through extraordinary turbulence triggered among others by the Covid pandemic.
The news of his death triggered a social media storm. The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post is reporting circulation of multiple videos, including his remarks during a press conference at last year’s National People’s Congress, when he said that China’s opening-up policy would not change “just as the course of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers will not be reversed.”
After assuming premiership, Li actively backed the private economy, foreign investment, and simplified government procedures.
“He really did his best and everything he could for this country, for China’s economy, especially for the business environment,” Wu Hei, founder of Mei KTV was quoted as saying. “I hope what he did for the country can be continued.” Incidentally, Li had invited Wu to speak at the Zhongnanhai
leadership compound after he wrote a critical article about the state of the economy.
Accolades are pouring in from other avenues as well. The South China Morning Post is quoting James Zimmerman, former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, as saying that ex-Premier Li “was viewed as a pragmatic leader and encouraged economic reform,” He added:
“His passing is a significant loss to the moderate voices in the party leadership,” he added, in an email to the Post.
Li Keqiang’s parting speech earlier this year: “Heaven is looking at what humans are doing. The firmament has eyes.”
— Carmen Lau 劉珈汶 (@carmenkamanlau) October 27, 2023
According to videos circulating on social media, Li was seen visiting the Mogao Caves, a World Heritage site in the northwestern province of Gansu, at the end of August, but there were no official reports mentioning the tour.
Footage of Li Keqiang post-Premiership on Aug 30 in Dunhuang, Gansu. Widely shared as what many believed to be his last public appearance, it’s circulating again on Chinese social media today. https://t.co/LmdszGYHHT
— Vivian Wu (@vivianwubeijing) October 27, 2023
Li is survived by his wife Cheng Hong, a professor of English literature at Beijing’s Capital University of Economics and Business, who has had several collections of essays or translations published. The couple has one daughter, according to official media reports.