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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 10:07 GMT
Last 'Gang of Four' member dies
Yao Wenyuan (Nov. 20, 1980 file photo )
Yao Wenyuan was the Gang of Four's chief propagandist
The last remaining member of the so-called Gang of Four that led China's Cultural Revolution has died, the government said on Friday.

Yao Wenyuan died of diabetes on 23 December at the age of 74, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

Along with the other gang members, who included the wife of Communist Party founder Mao Zedong, he was jailed for the chaos wreaked in the 1960s and 70s.

Yao was released nearly a decade ago and spent his last years in Beijing.

He played a key role in the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long power struggle which turned Chinese society upside-down.

A former propaganda official and Shanghai journalist, his political importance grew when he teamed up with Mao's third wife Jiang Qing and the two other gang members, Wang Hongwen and Zhang Chunqiao.

Once dubbed "the killer with the pen" by the Chinese media, he wrote a famous article that signalled the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Hundreds of thousands of people were driven to suicide after suffering mental and physical harassment by gangs of young Red Guards professing to follow Mao's teachings.

Long jail terms

The Gang of Four was officially blamed for the turmoil, and its members were arrested in 1976 following Mao's death.

They were all given long jail terms. Jiang and Zhang were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Yao finished his 20-year sentence in 1996, and went on to live a quiet life.

Jiang reportedly committed suicide in jail in 1991, while Wang died in 1992 and Zhang died in May 2005.

When it announced Yao's death on Friday, the Chinese government did not explain why the news was not broadcast immediately on 23 December.

But analysts say 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.


SEE ALSO:
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