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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
China's Gang of Four member dies
By Francis Markus
BBC News, Shanghai

Zhang Chunqiao in a 1975 photo
Zhang Chunqiao spent many years in prison after Mao's death
China has announced the death of one of the members of the Gang of Four who led the Cultural Revolution that convulsed the country in the 1960s and 1970s.

Zhang Chunqiao died of cancer last month at the age of 88.

Zhang and three others, including Jiang Qing, the third wife of Communist Party founder Mao Zedong, were imprisoned for their roles in the turmoil.

The Cultural Revolution marks an episode in China's history that is still surrounded by sensitivity.

The death of another aged member of China's notorious Gang of Four marks another milestone in a painful history.

During the years of violence and destruction unleashed with Mao's tacit connivance in the 1960s and 70s, Zhang Chunqiao - a Shanghai propaganda official and ex-journalist - played a key role.

Jailed for life in a show trial in 1981, he was released on medical parole after serving long years in prison.

Jiang Qing and fellow gang member Wang Hongwen have long since died.

Zhang Chunqiao's death leaves a sole survivor - Yao Wenyuan, who was released nearly a decade ago into quiet oblivion.

Zhang himself actually died on 21 April, but his death has only just been officially reported.

The delay is perhaps a measure of the extreme sensitivity that still surrounds the Cultural Revolution.

Many feel the Communist Party has never allowed the suffering that China's urban intellectuals and others went through to be properly dealt with.

To do so could gravely threaten the party's legitimacy and re-open the wounds of a group of people whose lives were so badly disrupted that they think of themselves as a lost generation.



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