Xu Jiatun, who served as Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong during the 80s, died in exile in Los Angeles on Wednesday at the age of 100.
Xu, a former Communist Party official, headed the Hong Kong branch of the Xinhua News Agency from 1983 to 1990, serving as Beijing’s de facto ambassador in the city during the colonial period.
He held the key position as Britain and China began negotiations on Hong Kong’s future in the run-up to city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.
But Xu earned the ire of the Communist authorities due to his sympathetic stance towards the pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.
Following the brutal crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square, Xu gave tacit permission to pro-mainland newspapers in Hong Kong to express grief over the massacre, RTHK noted.
After learning that he was being investigated by Chinese authorities, Xu sought refuge in the United States in 1990.
In 1991, he was expelled from the Communist Party.
Xu passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Wednesday after suffering from heart and kidney problems.
Hong Kong lawmakers paid tribute to the former Chinese envoy following the news of his death.
Pro-Beijing DAB lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung, who worked with Xu on the Basic Law drafting committee, described him as an open-minded man, a rarity for a mainland official in the 80s, RTHK reported.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho said it was sad that Xu passed away on foreign soil.
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