Chen Xitong, one of the masterminds behind the brutal crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, has died at the age of 84, Hong Kong China News Agency reported on Tuesday.
According to sources who spoke to the SCMP, Chen died at 9.45am in Beijing on Sunday.
Chen, who was jailed in 1995 on corruption charges, was released on medical parole in 2006. He suffered from terminal colon cancer.
In his memoir, former party secretary Zhao Ziyang – who was removed from his position and placed under house arrest for sympathising with the protesters – named Chen as one of those pushing for martial law and the eventual massacre. Former premier Li Peng also said in his diary that Chen oversaw the crackdown.
In a 2012 book based on interviews with Chen, he expressed his regret for the events of June 4 and said that he was a scapegoat. “I believe the truth of the 1989 episode will be uncovered one day,” he said.
Wang Fandi, father of one of the protesters killed in 1989, described Chen’s death as retribution for his sins of 24 years ago. Wang emphasised that Chen should not bear full responsibility for the crackdown however, “He was just a small potato and a tool manipulated by others. He just said and did what he was instructed to by people in the top echelon.”
Li Peng, who supported and lobbied for the crackdown, is widely loathed in mainland China but remains a powerful member of the CPC elite.