BEIJING — Yan Mingfu, a former top Communist Party figure who acted as an envoy to pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was forced out after the protests were crushed, has died, according to Chinese news reports. He was 91.

Yan died Monday in a hospital of unspecified causes, media including the business news magazine Caixin and Phoenix Satellite TV reported.

Born in 1931, Yan was the son of Yan Baohan, an intelligence official for the party, then an underground group fighting a guerrilla war against the Nationalist Party-led government of Gen. Chiang Kai-shek.

Yan joined the party in 1949, the year the Nationalists were driven into exile on Taiwan and the Communist government was established. He studied Russian and spent two decades as an official interpreter, including for then-leader Mao Zedong in meetings with the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin and other foreign leaders.

Yan and his father were arrested in 1967, a year after Mao launched the ultra-radical Cultural Revolution. Yan’s father died the following year.

After his release from prison, Yan was appointed to increasingly prominent party posts including secretary of the secretariat of the Central Committee, the country’s ruling inner circle of power.


In 1985-89, Yan was in charge of the party’s United Front Work Department, which oversees officially sanctioned religious bodies and other non-Communist groups.

In 1989, Yan was a member of the four-person Secretariat under then-General Secretary Zhao Ziyang when student-led protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square appealed for a public voice in government and an easing of strict social and political controls.

On May 17, 1989, Yan visited protesters who were on a hunger strike and said over a loudspeaker that he sympathized with them but told them they were hurting chances for reform. He urged them to go home.

One student leader, Wu’er Kaixi, called Yan “somebody we can trust.” But the hunger strikers voted to stay.

On the night of June 3-4, then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping ordered an attack on the protesters by the party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when soldiers with tanks opened fire on unarmed crowds around the square and on nearby streets.

Zhao was dismissed by Deng on June 24 and replaced by then-Shanghai party secretary Jiang Zemin. Yan was removed from the Secretariat.

Zhao spent the rest of his life under house arrest in Beijing. Yan was shifted to mostly powerless posts as a deputy minister of civil affairs and president of the China Charity Foundation.

Yan also published a memoir that is regarded as an important source of details of the Chinese reaction to then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin and the 1956 Sino-Soviet split, a major Cold War event.

Caixin said Yan’s family planned a memorial but gave no details. No details of survivors were released.

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