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Wang Hongwen (December, 1935 – August 3, 1992), was a Chinese labour activist and politician who spent most of his career in Shanghai. He was an important political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). He was the youngest member of the far-left political clique called the "Gang of Four." During the Cultural Revolution, Wang rose from a member of the working class to become one of the foremost members of national leadership of the Communist Party of China.
At the pinnacle of his power he was the Vice-Chairman of the CCP, and ranked third in the Communist Party's hierarchy. Following Mao's death in 1976, Wang Hongwen was arrested and charged with "counterrevolutionary activity," then sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981.
Wang was born in a village in the outskirts of Changchun, Jilin Province. In the early 1950s he took part in the Korean War, and joined the Communist Party of China in 1953. After the war, he was sent to Shanghai to work in Shanghai No. 17 Cotton Textile Mill as the head of security guards regiment, where he met Zhang Chunqiao and became involved in a Red Guards group. He organized the Shanghai Commune in January 1967, and was elected to the Ninth Central Committee of the CCP.
At the 9th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Wang was elected a member of the Central Committee. Following the Lin Biao incident, Wang was put in charge of the investigation into the case in the Shanghai area, reporting directly to Mao. At the Tenth National Congress of the CCP in 1973, Wang Hongwen was elevated to Vice Chairman in the Central Committee, and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, making him the third-highest-ranking member of the CCP, behind Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. All signs pointed to Wang being trained as Mao's successor.
Wang was rumored to be slated to become Premier after then-Premier Zhou Enlai's death. However, Hua Guofeng was chosen to succeed Premier Zhou in January 1976. Wang was an important player during and after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, and was the masters of ceremonies for his funeral service on national radio on September 18, 1976. He was arrested in what was essentially a coup planned by Hua and General Ye Jianying for his participation in the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution in October 1976. Wang was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981. He died of liver cancer in a Beijing hospital on August 3, 1992 at the age of 56.
Wang was one of the youngest members of the Politburo Standing Committee in the post-revolution Communist Party, having joined the body at a mere 37 years of age. In fact, he was the same age as some PSC members who took office even after the turn of the century, such as Luo Gan (served on the PSC between 2002 and 2007), who was also born in 1935.
- Jian, Guo; Song, Yongyi; Zhou, Yuan (2009). The A to Z of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. pp. 308–309. ISBN 9780810868700.
- Kristof, Nicholas (August 5, 1992). "Wang Hongwen Dies in Beijing; A Member of the 'Gang of Four'". The New York Times.