Hua Guofeng, who briefly ruled China as Mao Zedong’s successor, died Wednesday of an unspecified illness at the age of 87, AP reported, citing state media. Hua took power after Mao’s death in September 1976 but was pushed aside two years later by Deng Xiaoping as a prelude to reforms. Hua was forced out as Communist Party chairman in 1981. One of the stated reasons for his removal was that he continued to advocate the radical ideals of the Cultural Revolution, a violent period of social unrest during 1966-1976. Shortly after Hua came to power, several members of the "Gang of Four" – a group of powerful officials blamed for many of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution – were arrested, though it was unclear whether Hua played any role in those arrests.
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