China mourns immortal Long March veteran

And then there were three. The eldest of China's so-called "Eight Immortals" has died, removing from the political stage another of the Long March veterans whose behind-the-scenes influence continued long after they gave up any official positions. Peng Zhen passed away at the weekend, aged 95, just two months after the death of the most powerful Immortal of them all, Deng Xiaoping.

Television newscasters, wearing mourning suits, yesterday read out lengthy obituaries hailing Mr Peng as "a great proletarian revolutionary ... and a major founder of the socialist legal system in China".

Mr Peng was last seen in public in September. Although confined to a wheelchair in recent years, the politically orthodox former party chief and mayor of Peking remained more active in his nineties than Mr Deng, and, as one of the Communist Party's elder statesman, maintained a wide web of contacts.

The death of Mr Peng on Saturday night removes another back-room player in the run-up to this October's full party congress, at which President Jiang Zemin will seek to reaffirm his role as the "core" of the post-Deng leadership. However, Mr Jiang is well aware that two of the remaining Immortals still wield substantial influence. General Yang Shangkun, who was ousted as president in 1992 for trying to build a power base for the post-Deng era, is a sprightly 89. Bo Yibo, also 89, was an ally of Mr Deng and a supporter of economic reform. Song Renqiong, a mere 87, was a party stalwart but is no longer seen as a key figure.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the Eight Immortals steered China towards reform under Deng's policies. Mr Peng, who in April 1966 was the first top-level target of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution, was banished to the countryside for 12 years. After his rehabilitation, he was put in charge of drafting amendments to the constitution in 1982, which increased the role of the National People's Congress. From 1983 to 1988 he was chairman of the NPC.

Mr Peng supported an independent legal framework - "Before the law, all are equal," he said. But he also insisted on the absolute rule of the Communist Party, objected to Western influences, and spoke out against parts of the Deng reform programme. In 1989, Mr Peng is said to have approved of martial law in Peking, but he also maintained that the pro- democracy students had patriotic motives.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea