• Kyodo

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Former Chinese Premier Li Peng, who spearheaded a military crackdown on prodemocracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, may have died, Hong Kong media reported Friday, without citing any sources.

It is not clear whether the report by a news site affiliated with Hong Kong magazine Mingjing is true, as China’s state-run media remained silent.

According to the news site, Li died of bladder cancer at a Beijing hospital on Tuesday. If true, he would have passed away at age 87.

Another Hong Kong newspaper, the Apple Daily, cited unidentified sources as saying Li was still alive but in a critical condition at the 301 hospital in Beijing.

Li served as premier from 1988 to 1998 and as chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, between 1998 and 2003.

A native of Shanghai, he was ranked second in the Communist Party of China, behind then-General Secretary Jiang Zemin, for much of the 1990s.

As premier, Li was believed to have taken a hard-line stance on the Tiananmen Square prodemocracy protests in 1989, including declaring martial law and ordering a military crackdown against student demonstrators in June that year.

China has never released a death toll from the crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere around the country, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

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