China to cremate ‘outstanding’ leader Li Keqiang on Thursday

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will cremate the remains of former Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday, when flags will fly at half mast across the country in mourning for an “outstanding” leader, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Li, a former economist and pro-reform leader who served as the premier for 10 years before retiring in March, died of a heart attack on Friday.

His remains were transferred to Beijing from Shanghai aboard a special flight on that day, Xinhua reported.

“He was extolled as an excellent CPC member, a time-tested and loyal communist soldier and an outstanding proletarian revolutionist, statesman and leader of the Party and the state,” Xinhua said on Tuesday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

On the day of the cremation, national flags will fly at half-mast to mourn Li at the capital’s Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People, the foreign ministry as well as seats of local governments across the country, and diplomatic missions, Xinhua said.

Li’s death was a huge loss to the Communist Party and the nation, according to an official obituary posted by Xinhua last week.

But Li, once viewed as a Communist Party leadership contender, was sidelined in recent years, analysts and diplomats said, as President Xi Jinping tightened his grip on economic policymaking.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Ethan Wang; Editing by Robert Birsel)