The daughter of a Chinese Communist Party veteran boycotted his funeral Wednesday, calling it an improper tribute to a man who once worked for Mao Zedong but later became a fierce critic of the regime.
Li Rui’s memorial was held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, where many high-ranking former officials are buried. His daughter Li Nanyang said the ceremony was against her father’s wishes, which according to her were: to not have a memorial, to not be brought to Babaoshan, and to not be draped with the party flag.
Li was 101 years old when he died of organ failure in Beijing last Saturday.
He was “completely disappointed” by the party, his daughter said in a phone interview from her home in the U.S. He felt that China was devoid of freedom of speech and that corruption was rampant in a system which allowed Communist officials to get rich while ordinary people’s lives stagnated, she said.
“I believe that if my father’s soul is in heaven, he will be crying at the sight” of his body covered by a party flag, Li Nanyang wrote in a statement to supporters. She said she chose not to attend the funeral in order to make her father’s stance clear.
Li Nanyang said people in China told her Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent flower wreaths to the memorial.
“How hypocritical can you be?” she remarked, calling it “very ironic” that the leaders would appear to honor her father when his books are banned in mainland China. They give an inside account of the party’s tumultuous history.
“He should be commemorated and remembered because he was Li Rui, not because he was a high-ranking Communist Party cadre,” she said.
Li Rui joined the party more than a decade before the People’s Republic was founded in 1949. He briefly served as one of Mao’s personal secretaries, but then was ousted from the party for expressing dissent. Li spent eight years in prison, regaining his party membership only after Mao’s death.
In an interview with the BBC in 2017, Li said he refused to write a self-criticism after he advocated tolerance for the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“Whenever there is a clash between the party and humanity,” he said, “I insist on humanity.”