President Li Undergoes Surgery; Ailing Marshal Ye Is Recovering
PEKING (AP) _ Two members of China’s powerful six-man Politburo standing committee were reported Tuesday to have serious health problems.
President Li Xiannian has been hospitalized for eye surgery and 88-year-old Marshal Ye Jianying, who has not been seen in public for three years, is reported recovering from a severe illness.
Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian, explaining to visiting former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon why he could not meet with Li, said Li was ″now undergoing an operation on his eyes″ for cataracts.
″President Li Xiannian wants to see you very much, but the doctor has arranged for him to be hospitalized for an operation so please accept our apologies,″ Wu told Nixon.
Li has been head of state since 1983. His age is given officially as 76 but biographies earlier in his career said he was born in 1905, which would make him about 80.
While his office is largely ceremonial, Li ranks fifth in the formal Communist Party hierarchy and is on the Politburo standing committee, the highest organ of power.
In an interview published Tuesday, Marshal Ye’s son said his father is recovering from a severe, unspecified illness.
The son, newly appointed Guangdong Province Gov. Ye Xuanping, 59, said his father became ill last year, but his condition is now stable and he is gradually convalescing,″ according to the state-run China News Service.
The elder Ye is a former defense minister.
China’s paramount leader is Deng Xiaoping, 81, chairman of the Central Advisory Commission and state and party military commissions.
Wu made the comments about Li when he met Nixon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse before a welcoming banquet. Reporters were allowed to cover the start of the meeting.
Li greets all heads of state who come to Peking, and travels the globe as China’s top ambassador. Diplomatic analysts put him in the ″conservative,″ central-planning camp among Chinese leaders, although he publicly supports Deng’s market-force reforms and open-door policy.