Li Peng

In his biography in China’s People Daily, Li Peng is described in glowing terms. The piece describes him as caring, friendly, and not afraid to do housework.  However, in the West, Li Peng will always be linked to Tian An Men Square.  In April of 1989, he was the strongest voice for the suppression of democracy.  He supported putting down the movement by any means possible, including force, and it was Li who declared martial law in Beijing that spring.  He later described the incident as a historic victory for communism.

Li, born in October of 1928, was the son of two early communist party members.  When he was only three, his father was executed by the KMT, leaving him orphaned.  After this, Zhou Enlai, the future CCP Premier, took him as a foster son.  His position gave him the opportunity to pursue his education at the Moscow Power Institute in 1948.

He returned to China in 1955 and served as the chief engineer of the Fengman Hydroelectric Power Plant.  He became Deputy Minister of the power industry in 1979.  He was elected to the CCP Central Party in 1982, then to the Politburo and Party Secretariat in 1985 and became acting Premier in 1987.  Deng’s decision to promote Li to Premier shocked many people, since Li did not share Deng’s views on economical reform.

As Premier, he declared martial law on May 20, 1989.  After the protests were over, Li pushed for the expulsion of Zhao Ziyang who had openly showed compassion for the hunger strikers.  Ironically, it was Li’s involvement in the Tian An Men Square Protests that secured his longevity in the party.  If he was removed from his position, it would have openly signaled that the crackdown on June 4 was a mistake. After June 4, Li publicly changed his position in support of Deng’s economic reforms.  Nevertheless, he was replaced by Zhu Rongji as Premier in 1998.  On March 11, 2003, he retired from his position as Poltiburo.