President Xi Jinping on Friday led the top leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC)in paying floral tributes to fallen Chinese national heroes at the annually held 9th Martyrs’ Day commemoration event at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Leaders from all top CPC hierarchies and government departments attended the event on Friday morning along with a large number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel.
It was the first event – attended by the Chinese leadership — which the international media was invited to cover following rumours of political instability in Beijing’s power corridors that swirled online earlier this week.
The relatively new memorial occasion, instituted by Xi in 2014 to strengthen patriotic fervour and loyalty to the CPC, comes two weeks ahead of the all-important CPC national congress — beginning October 16 — where Xi is expected to easily secure a third term, breaking the established two-tenure norm.
For Xi, though he did not speak at the event and was at the venue for around 20 minutes, it was another occasion to remind the Chinese — through official media and its propaganda machinery — what the CPC has done for them by stoking nationalism and historical memory.
China’s top legislature, the rubber stamp, National People’s Congress (NPC), approved the memorial day in 2014, saying it should be “marked with events across the country on Sept 30 every year to publicise martyrs’ achievements and spirits, and cultivate patriotism, collectivism, and socialist moralities so as to consolidate the Chinese nation’s cohesiveness”.
Eight years later, it fits right into Xi’s narrative, which is built on focussing on the Chinese people’s unflinching loyalty to the Party; attacking the CPC means attacking the country.
The Martyrs’ Day is marked on September 30, a day ahead of China’s National Day, which falls on October 1.
It’s likely Xi’s last major public event — other than the October 1 National Day event reception — before the CPC congress and related party meetings convene from October.
Besides Xi, the other top leaders who offered floral tributes included Premier Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng — the seven members of the CPC’s politburo’s standing committee — and Vice-President, Wang Qishan.
“Nine huge flower baskets were placed in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Xi and other leaders walked up to the foot of the monument, where he straightened the red ribbons on the baskets before leading other senior officials in a walk around the monument to pay their tributes,” official news agency Xinhua reported.
“It is believed that China has about 20 million martyrs. However, as many of them did not leave their names in warring days, only 1.93 million martyrs have been enlisted in the government’s directory. About 300 more people have been identified as martyrs annually in recent years,” state-run China Daily had said in an earlier report.