Chinese pro-democracy sympathizer Bao Tong dies at 90

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Nov. 10 (UPI) — Bao Tong, the former top aide of ex-Chinese reformist leader Zhao Ziyang who was sympathetic to the late 1980s pro-democracy movement, has died in Beijing at 90, his son Bao Pu said.

Bao was jailed over the Tiananmen Square student-led democracy movement that was crushed by the Chinese military in 1989.

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Chinese dissident journalist Gao Yu, who was close to Bao, said he died of the rare blood cancer Myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS.

His daughter Bao Jian quoted him on social media, saying he still was “full of hope” for China.

“Man has a minor historical existence in the world … whether I turn 90 or not is insignificant, but what is important is that we drive for today and the future … and to do what we can, should and must do,” Bao Jian said, calling on her father’s words.

Bao was born in 1932 and joined the Communist Party in 1949, the same year they took control of mainland China. He rose through the party ranks and became political secretary and then general secretary under Zhao when he was premier.

He and other reformers drafted political and economic reforms after Mao Zedong‘s death but were never enacted. Party hardliners took control of the party after the pro-democracy uprising, leading to the end of Bao’s political career along with Zhao.

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Bao would eventually be expelled from the party and jailed for seven years. Even after he was released, Bao remained under strict state surveillance until his death. Despite that, he became one of China’s most outspoken dissidents and critics of the party.