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Flowers laid at former home of late Chinese premier Li Keqiang

DINGYUAN: As dusk fell on a remote village in eastern China on Friday (Oct 27), a small group gathered around a mud and thatch house to pay tribute to its most famous resident – former premier Li Keqiang, who died Friday aged 68.

Once in the running to take over the country’s top job before being passed over for President Xi Jinping, Li had a relatively humble upbringing in rural Anhui province.

On Friday a cluster of bouquets was laid against the walls of his family home in Jiuzi village, Dingyuan county, where he lived throughout many of his school years.

“Li Keqiang was an amiable premier and was loved by people all over the country,” said one man, who stood staring at the display for some time, looking moved.

“When I heard the news, I was shocked, unable to accept the truth. I happened to be here in Dingyuan, his hometown, and came here to mourn our beloved premier,” he told AFP.

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It was not clear whether some of the people milling around were present in an official capacity, with the pile of bouquets slowly added to as the evening went on.

A small group of people gathered, with some laying bunches of yellow and white chrysanthemums – a symbol of mourning in China – and bowing before the house.

“He has done a lot of good things for the people and the country. We are very grateful to him,” one man told AFP.

The mourners speaking to AFP didn’t want to give their names for privacy reasons.

Arriving with a large standing floral arrangement, a delivery man told AFP he had been summoned from about an hour away, as there were no closer flower shops.

The rural surroundings were a far cry from the lofty halls of power in Beijing where Li spent a decade as China’s nominal second in command.

Li reportedly still has relatives living in Jiuzi, a small settlement surrounded by fields of hay, where the sides of the roads are lined by beans left out to dry.

One woman told AFP she felt “very sad” at Li’s passing.

“My mum is related to him in some way,” she said. “We share the same ancestor.”

The son of a minor party official, Li’s path out of Anhui began when he was accepted into the prestigious Peking University, first for a law degree, then a doctorate in economics.

At a small restaurant next to the house, two young men said they had travelled from Hefei, about an hour away, to pay their respects to a fellow alumnus.

“After learning the news, we came here in the afternoon,” Zhang, the Youth Secretary of Anhui Peking University Alumni Association said.

He showed AFP a video online from Hefei, where people were also laying flowers outside places connected with Li.

“There will probably be more people here on the weekend,” said his companion.

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