Li Rui (politician)

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Li Rui
Li Rui crop.jpg
Personal details
Born (1917-04-13) April 13, 1917 (age 101)
Political party Communist Party of China

Li Rui (Chinese: 李锐; born April 13, 1917) is a retired politician of the People's Republic of China from the ruling Communist Party and latterly a writer and vocal advocate of democratic reform in China.[1]

Early career[edit]

Li was an early and enthusiastic member of the Party, having trekked to the Communist base at Yan'an in the late 1930s. Within a few years he first suffered revolutionary persecution there.[2]

In the mid-1950s, Li was briefly one of Mao Zedong's secretaries, giving him access to the inner circle of China’s ruling elite, but his criticisms of the Great Leap Forward, and support for Peng Dehuai, led to his denunciation and exile. He later declared that Mao was dismissive of the suffering and death caused by his policies: "Mao's way of thinking and governing was terrifying. He put no value on human life. The deaths of others meant nothing to him."[2][3]

Li helped to negotiate the establishment of Joint Factory 718, set up in Dashanzi in cooperation with East Germany as an extension of the "Socialist Unification Plan" of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the young Chinese communist state. From 1957 he was its inaugural director.

Li was then denounced as an anti-Party element and spent 20 years in prison, emerging in 1979 and three years later being elected to the Central Committee, then, in 1983, going on to be vice director of the Organisation Department of the Communist Party.[4]

He was a vice minister of the Ministry of Water Conservation, and later that, at the time of its planning, he was opposed to the Yangtze Three Gorges Project.[5] Li continued to oppose construction of the dam after the 1989 Tiananmen protests.


At the 16th Party Congress in 2002, Li caused a stir by calling for political reform. He began writing widely.[1][2]

In November 2004, the CCP's Propaganda Department banned Li from being published in the media.[1]

In 2005, on hearing of the death of Zhao Ziyang, Li returned to Beijing from overseas and immediately went to the former general secretary’s home to pay his last respects.[5]

In 2006, he was a lead signatory to an open letter condemning the state's closure of the investigative newspaper Bingdian.[6]

In 2007, ahead of the 17th Party Congress, together with retired academic Xie Tao, he published articles calling for the CPC to become a European-style socialist party, remarks that were condemned by the Party propaganda apparatus.[7]

In October 2010, Li was the lead signatory to an open letter to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, calling for much greater press freedom (see English text [2]).[8][9]

Personal life[edit]

Li has a daughter, Li Nanyang, from whom he was long estranged after she rejected him as an enemy of the Party during his fall from power in the 1950s. Through her efforts in the late 1970s, he was returned from exile and restored to his former rank. The two are now reconciled.[2][5] He turned 100 in April 2017.[10]


among many others


  1. ^ a b c Fifty Influential Public Intellectuals - The Propaganda Department's List of Six, ed by Nicolai Volland, Institut Fur Sinologie
  2. ^ a b c d Intergenerational and family stories. Morning Sun
  3. ^ Jonathan Watts. China must confront dark past, says Mao confidant The Guardian, June 2, 2005
  4. ^ Sullivan, Lawrence (2011). Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Scarecrow Press. p. 159. 
  5. ^ a b c Li Rui, Former Secretary of Chairman Mao, and Maj. Gen. Chang Zhonglian Reflect on Zhao Ziyang, Epoch Times, Jan 28, 2005, trans from Chinese [1]
  6. ^ Party elders attack China censors, BBC News, 14 February 2006
  7. ^ Hu Jintao Battles the CCP's Crisis of Confidence, Willy Lam (Jamestown Foundation's China Brief)
  8. ^ Chinese Cadres Say ‘Black Hands’ Choke Wen’s Political Reforms, Business Week, October 13, 2010
  9. ^ Open letter calls for end to media censorship, SCMP, Oct 13, 2010
  10. ^ Staff (2017-04-13). "Li Rui: China's red rebel turns 100". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 

External links[edit]