Veteran Chinese leader dies at age 98

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BEIJING (AP) – Bo Yibo, the last of the “Eight Immortals” who led China through economic reforms and the 1989 Tianmen square protests, has died, an official news agency reported Tuesday. He was 98.

Hong Kong’s Phoenix Satellite Television, which has close ties to Beijing, said Bo died Monday at a hospital in the Chinese capital.

Bo, the father of China’s commerce minister, was a veteran of the 1949 communist revolution and a former vice premier.

He was the last of the “Eight Immortals,” the group of revolutionary veterans who included supreme leader Deng Xiaoping and led China through the launch of economic reforms in 1979 and the upheaval of 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

The other immortals were former Presidents Yang Shangkun and Li Xiannian, economic planner Chen Yun, army Gen. Song Renqiong and senior party figures Peng Zhen and Wang Zhen.

Bo was close to Deng and supported faster economic liberalization.

, warning that China’s future hinged on greater prosperity.

“If we want to survive and maintain a foothold in the world, we have to have a sense of urgency,” he once said.

Born in 1908, Bo joined the Communist Party in 1925 and served as commissar for the People’s Liberation Army during World War II and its civil war against the then-ruling Nationalists.

After the communist victory in 1949, Bo became finance minister and a vice premier of China’s cabinet.

Like many of his peers, Bo was humiliated during the 1966-76 ultraleftist Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards smashed and looted his home. His family endured a decade of poverty and disgrace before Bo was rehabilitated in 1978.

Bo was married with six children.

His eldest son, Bo Xilai, is a rising political star who was named commerce minister in early 2004 after serving as mayor of the northeastern city of Dalian.

AP-ES-01-16-07 1722EST

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