BEIJING - Modern China is advancing reforms supported by Hu Yaobang, state media said Wednesday, a day after the 25th anniversary of the death of the reformer whose passing helped ignite the Tiananmen Square protests.
Hu was forced to resign as head of China's ruling Communist Party in 1987 after he allowed students in the capital to hold protest marches calling for democratic reforms.
Those rallies erupted again after his death on April 15, 1989, culminating in a massacre by the military of demonstrators on the night of June 3-4.
Hu remains popular among liberals who tout him as a champion of political reform.
But the Global Times newspaper contended that authorities today, who keep a tight grip on power but have promised economic restructuring, are following the course of reform that Hu laid out.
"Analysts noted that the current government is in fact sticking to the path of reform advocated by Hu in the 1980s in the new historical context," said the paper, which is close to the Communist Party.
In an editorial the Global Times also blasted Chinese who marked the anniversary with online calls for greater political openness.
"It's ridiculous that some on the Internet make use of his name to oppose the course to which Hu was devoted," it wrote in both its English- and Chinese-language editions. "It's an insult to Hu's glorious life."
"Those who oppose the leadership of the Party and who trumpet that China should copy the Western political model had better keep away from Hu's name," it added.
No official memorial was held for Hu on Tuesday and the only reported commemoration came in the form of a low-profile visit to Hu's home town by former President Hu Jintao, who is not related.
But China's popular online social networks were flooded Tuesday with messages memorialising Hu.
"When the bad news came, students' windows all across campus were filled with eulogies," influential commentator Li Chengpeng wrote on a microblog post Tuesday.
"That shows you his place in the hearts of the students."