Who was Hu Yaobang?
Raised by peasant parents, Hu fought alongside Mao Zedong in the Chinese revolution, then rose to the country's No. 2 job as head of the Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping. More than any Chinese leader of his generation, he promoted political reform. In 1978, he signaled a new era by rehabilitating people unjustly purged during Mao's 1950s "anti-rightist" campaign.
Why did he fall from power?
In the winter of 1986-87, students protested in favor of democratic reforms. Deng blamed Hu, a relative liberal, for inspiring the protests; Hu lost his post as leader of the Communist Party, though he remained in the Politburo.
How is Hu connected to the Tiananmen protests of 1989?
His death on April 15, 1989, sparked the Tiananmen movement. Students brought floral wreaths to the Square—then stayed to demonstrate. On June 4, soldiers fired on the demonstrators.
Now that the government has commemorated Hu, is it considering political reforms?
Highly unlikely. President Hu Jintao has made it clear that political reform is off his agenda and seems to be playing to the Communist Youth League; Hu Yaobang headed the group in the 1950s and '60s, and Hu Jintao was its boss in the mid-1980s. Says an editor of a leading Chinese magazine: "Nobody will misunderstand and think Hu Jintao is promoting political reforms."