Ren Zhongyi, the Chinese Communist Party's elder and reformist, died in Guangzhou, Guangdong province in mid-November. He was 92.
Ren served as Guangdong's Party secretary in the early 1980s, when China's economic reform was in its early stages. During his five year tenure, Ren led the transformation that has since turned Guangdong into one of the country's richest regions and the source of one-third of the exports that constitute China's growing footprint on the global economy.
Born in Wei county, Hebei province in 1913, Ren joined the CCP in 1936. After the People's Republic was established in 1949, he served in Heilongjiang province, becoming Party secretary in 1961.
After enduring cruel treatment by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, Ren returned to the political stage in the late 1970s. Now based in Guangdong, he was at the head of the drive for Shenzhen and Zhuhai to become Special Economic Zones (SEZs) modeled on Hong Kong and Macau, with a long-tem view to making ties with the outside world. By the time he retired, the province's role as the vanguard of economic reform was irreversible.
In his later years, Ren advocated eventual nationwide adoption of democracy, including full separation of powers, as the only antidote to corruption and guarantee of stability.
Critic in exile
Liu Binyan, the exiled Chinese writer known as the "conscience of China," died of cancer in New Jersey, US, in December aged 80.
As an official journalist, Liu unveiled corruption and abuse of power within the Communist Party system, exposes that ultimately led to his exile in 1988.
Born in 1925, Liu joined the Party in 1943 and worked as a reporter and editor at the China Youth Daily. He first came to fame for his glowing accounts of Mao Zedong's new China but was denounced in the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957 for reporting abuses of power.
After two decades spent in and out of forced labor camps, he resumed his career at People's Daily after the Cultural Revolution, becoming increasingly bold in his calls for freedom of speech and reports of official corruption.
Liu was expelled from the Party in 1987 and went abroad the next year. After the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 he settled in the US and continued to promote democracy and human rights in China, as well as airing fierce criticisms of the CCP, until his death.
Liu was barred from returning to China, and his reputation was ruined in his homeland. Chinese media were prohibited from reporting his death.