China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday led the top leadership of the ruling Communist Party in hailing those who had played a role in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) founding in 1949, two weeks ahead of a key party congress.
Mr. Xi attended a ceremony in Tiananmen Square to mark “martyrs day” on the eve of a week-long national holiday, one of his last major public events before he completes his second term in office and likely begins an unprecedented third five-year term following the party’s national congress, which convenes in Beijing on October 16.
Mr. Xi, along with six other members of the Politburo Standing Committee and representatives of the military, presented flower baskets at the monument to people’s heroes which the Communist Party built on the square in 1949 to honour those who helped found the PRC, including 3.7 million people who died between 1921, when the party was founded, and 1949.
The annual ceremony has been marked officially in China as “martyrs day” since 2014. Mr. Xi, who took over in 2012, has placed renewed emphasis during his rule on building public support for past figures in party history as well as for the military, including by passing a new law that now makes it a crime to “defame martyrs”.
Friday’s ceremony, besides honouring past figures, also honoured 400 CPC members who died in the fight against COVID-19 and 1,800 others who had “sacrificed their lives during the poverty alleviation fight”, the party-run Global Times reported.
The week-long party congress in Beijing is expected to highlight the “zero-COVID” strategy as well the party’s declaration in April 2021 that it had eliminated extreme poverty, by lifting 98 million out of poverty during Mr. Xi’s rule, as among his key legacies from the past decade.
The annual ceremony is a rare public event attended by the top Chinese leadership to which international media are invited. Friday’s event marked Mr. Xi’s second public appearance in recent days following a visit on Tuesday to an exhibition in Beijing showcasing achievements of the past decade.
In the wake of his attendance at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on September 16, Mr. Xi did not emerge in public for 11 days, which triggered fevered social media speculation but observers in Beijing said was explained simply by the current zero-COVID rules. The policy requires travellers from overseas to isolate for 10 days, a period during which the Chinese leader would have likely sought to refrain from holding public engagements in keeping with the rules. Mr. Xi similarly avoided public engagements following a visit to Hong Kong in July.