Li Rui, who was once Mao Zedong’s personal secretary, was absent at the opening of the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Radio France Internationale reports on its website.
The absence of the 101-year-old man, known for his advocacy of democratic reform, came after an article, purportedly written by Li, was circulated online earlier in the day.
Li was vice-minister of Water Resources and Electric Power when he became Mao’s personal secretary in 1958. He is also a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and deputy head of the party’s Organization Department.
In the article, Li wrote that he had no option but to be absent from the congress due to his age, hearing difficulty and inability to walk, although he still wants to give some suggestions to the government.
The article praised President Xi Jinping for his efforts to achieve the “Chinese Dream” but said the government has been tightly controlling the media.
It said China is pushing for holistic reforms on the path of peaceful development.
To do that, it said the first thing the government should do is to allow people to speak their minds.
The article also said Yanhuang Chunqiu, a monthly journal identified as liberal and reformist for publishing highly sensitive political topics, was clearly oppressed in 2016 after the authorities forced it to replace its editorial staff, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
The forced change in the magazine, where Li served as a consultant, was made without reason, the article claimed.
It also said several books written by Li have been ordered not to be published in the mainland, only in Hong Kong.
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