Jane Macartney: Gang of Four man dead, again

From Times Online: after three premature obituaries, Zhang’s death was as mysterious as his final hours.

Xinhua gave no explanation for why it had waited since April 21 to make public Mr Zhang‘s death. It described him as a culprit in Mrs Jiang‘s counter-revolutionary clique and said he had been on medical parole since January 1998.

There was further confusion because several official Chinese websites had listed him variously as having died in 1991, 1994 and 1996. In January, the Tianfu Morning News reported that he had died of illness in 1994.

The confusion almost certainly arose from official secrecy about him and curiosity about the whereabouts of one of the most infamous criminals of 20th-century China. “This report of his death is correct,” a Xinhua official said.

Communist leaders may have been reluctant to give publicity to the news in late April when they were holding meetings with visiting politicians from Taiwan. They may also have wanted to take some time to decide how to report the death of a man intimately associated with one of the Communist Party’s worst excesses since it swept to power in 1949.

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