Hu Jiwei, former president of People's Daily, has died at the age of 96. (Internet photo)
Hu Jiwei, the former president of People's Daily and former deputy director of the Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee of China's National People's Congress, died on Sunday morning at a Beijing hospital at the age of 96, reports Hong Kong's Ming Pao.
Hu, a long-time advocate of freedom of the press in China, was dismissed from his position and suspended from the party after opposing the government's crackdown on the Tiananmen student protesters. His close friend Yao Jianfu, a former researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that before Hu was admitted to intensive care, he asked him to urge the CCP's 18th National Congress to vindicate the student protesters of 1989.
Hu's son-in-law, surnamed Wang, said his father-in-law died of heart failure having just celebrated his 96th birthday two days before his death. Wang said Hu had been in and out of the hospital three times but was calm and was not in pain when he passed away, surrounded by his family. His last wish was that his funeral would be simple.
Yao said on Sept. 11 that he visited Hu, bringing him a copy of the Collected Essays of Bao Tong, the former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, the former CCP general secretary purged for expressing sympathy with the Tiananmen demonstrators. Hu reportedly smiled after receiving the book and urged Yao in private to tell Gao Yu to write about the Tiananmen protests and urge the 18th National Congress to reverse the official verdict on the protests. Gao Yu is former deputy editor-in-chief of the Economist Weekly.
"The 96-year-old elder been in the CCP for 74 years, not an easy thing to do," Yao said, saying he had met his old friend many times over the last five years.
Although Hu used a wheelchair in his later years, he still read books and watched television keenly to keep up to date with current events. Yao described Hu as "not only clear but also very progressive and [he] kept up with the times." Yao says he plans to organize his conversations with Hu for publication. Hu's book The Revelation of Hu and Zhao's New Politic was published in January this year by Hong Kong's New Century Press.
Yao also said Hu had previously told him that he was wrong to believe in Marxism and join the CCP. "The social judgments of Engels and Marx were wrong; the end should not be a dictatorship of the proletariat but rather to fulfill a bourgeois-democratic society," Hu told Yao.
In 1983, Hu stood down as president of People's Daily in protest against Deng Xiaoping's Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign. He continued to press for freedom of the press and in 2010 was one of a number of signatories including veteran party leaders and members of the intelligentsia who called on the party to allow freedom of speech for the media, a right theoretically guaranteed in China's constitution, though not in practice.
Hu Jiwei 胡績偉
Zhao Ziyang 趙紫陽
Yao Jianfu 姚監復
Collected Essays of Bao Tong 《鮑彤文集》
Gao Yu 高瑜
The Revelation of Hu and Zhao's New Politic 《胡趙新政啟示錄》