China's former leader Jiang Zemin died in Shanghai of leukaemia and multiple organ failure on November 30, 2022
China's former leader Jiang Zemin died in Shanghai of leukaemia and multiple organ failure on November 30, 2022 AFP

Sirens will wail across China as the country comes to a standstill Tuesday morning during a public memorial service for former leader Jiang Zemin, who died last week at the age of 96.

Jiang oversaw a transformational era from the late 1980s into the new millennium, taking power in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and leading China towards its emergence as a powerhouse on the global stage.

He died last Wednesday in Shanghai of leukaemia and multiple organ failure after medical treatments failed, according to state media.

His body was cremated Monday in Beijing at a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping and other top leaders, Xinhua said.

A public memorial service will be held at 10:00 am (0200 GMT) on Tuesday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People and broadcast live, state broadcaster CCTV said.

"All regions and departments must organise the majority of party members, cadres, and the masses to listen and watch," CCTV added.

Flags across the country will be flown at half-mast as well as at Chinese government buildings overseas.

A nationwide three-minute silence will be held with sirens sounding.

Stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen will suspend trading for the duration of the silence, as will the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's bourse will suspend the display of data on external screens at its offices for three minutes while senior executives observe the silence.

Public entertainment will also be suspended on Tuesday, with some online games such as the popular League of Legends announcing a day's pause.

A heavy security presence is expected in Beijing, after anti-Covid lockdown protests last week became the most widespread public demonstrations in China since rallies calling for political reform in 1989.

Jiang's role in crushing the 1989 protests and repressing other political activism, as well as the flourishing of corruption and inequality during his tenure, means he leaves a mixed legacy.

But state media have hailed Jiang as a great communist revolutionary, highlighting his part in quelling "serious political turmoil".

"Jiang Zemin was an outstanding leader enjoying high prestige," read a Xinhua biography titled "Jiang Zemin's great, glorious life".

"During his revolutionary career of more than 70 years, he remained unswervingly firm in communist ideals, utterly loyal to the party and the people, and resolutely committed to the cause of the party and the people."

On Thursday Jiang's body was flown to Beijing where it was met at the airport by Xi and other top leaders, footage from CCTV showed.

Wearing matching black armbands with a white flower pinned to their jackets, Xi and colleagues bowed in unison as Jiang was brought off the plane, his trademark heavy-rimmed glasses clearly visible through a glass coffin.

In retirement, Jiang had become the subject of light-hearted memes among millennial and Gen Z Chinese fans, who called themselves "toad worshippers" in thrall to his frog-like countenance and quirky mannerisms.

More than half a million commenters flooded CCTV's post announcing his death on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo within an hour, many referring to him as "Grandpa Jiang".

After the announcement, the websites of state media and government-owned businesses turned black-and-white, as did apps such as Alipay, Taobao and even McDonald's China.