Laying flowers at the former home of the late Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

Laying flowers at the former home of the late Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

As dusk fell over a remote village in eastern China on Friday, a small group gathered around a mud-and-thatch house to honor its most famous resident — former Premier Li Keqiang, who died on Friday at the age of 68.

When he was running for the country’s highest office before being succeeded by President Xi Jinping, Li grew up relatively humble in rural Anhui province.

On Friday, a bunch of flower bouquets were placed on the walls of his family home in Jiuzi Village, Dingyuan County, where he lived throughout many of his school years.

“Li Keqiang was a friendly prime minister who was loved by people all over the country,” said a man who stood staring at the screen for a while, looking emotional.

“When I heard the news, I was shocked and could not accept the truth. I was here in Dingyuan, his hometown, and I came here to mourn our beloved prime minister,” he told AFP.

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It was not clear whether some of the people wandering around were attending in an official capacity, with piles of bouquets slowly being added as the evening continued.

A small group of people gathered, some placing bouquets of yellow and white chrysanthemums – a symbol of mourning in China – and bowed in front of the house.

“He has done a lot of good things for the people and the country. We are very grateful to him,” one of the men told AFP.

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The mourners who spoke to AFP did not want to mention their names for privacy reasons.

The delivery worker told AFP that he was called about an hour later, as there were no flower shops nearby.

The surrounding countryside was a far cry from the lofty halls of power in Beijing, where Li spent a decade as China’s nominal second-in-command.

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Li is said to still have relatives living in Jiuzi, a small settlement surrounded by hay fields, where the roads are lined with beans left to dry.

One woman told AFP she felt “deeply sad” by Lee’s death.

“My mother is related to him in some way,” she said. “We share the same grandfather.”

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The son of a junior party official, Li began his path out of Anhui when he was accepted into the prestigious Beijing University, first for a law degree, then a doctorate in economics.

In a small restaurant next to the house, two young men said they had traveled from Hefei, about an hour away, to pay their respects to their fellow graduate.

“After we learned the news, we came here in the afternoon,” said Zhang, youth secretary of the Beijing Anhui University Alumni Association.

He showed AFP an online video from Hefei City, where people were laying flowers outside places linked to Li.

“There will probably be more people here on the weekend,” his companion said.

Rep/MD

    (Tags for translation)China

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