Sirens wicken as China mourns late leader Jiang Zemin

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Sirens wicken as China mourns late leader Jiang Zemin

BEIJING: Sirens wailed across China as the Communist Party eulogised late leader Jiang Zemin on Tuesday, hailing him as a patriot who dedicated himself to the country.

Security services made sure there were no large gatherings on the streets after rare protests in recent weeks, and China's rulers orchestrated a day of mourning across the country.

Jiang died last Wednesday at the age of 96 in Shanghai and left behind a mixed legacy, taking power in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and leading China towards its emergence as a powerhouse on the global stage.

A public memorial service attended by China's political elite began at 10 am in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, bedecked with a giant portrait of the late leader as well as slogans lauding him and a massive flower display.

President Xi Jinping told the assembled party faithful at the hall that he dedicated his whole life to the Chinese people, dedicated his life to fighting for national independence, people's liberation, national prosperity and people's happiness.

The CCP Central Committee calls on the whole Party, the army, and the people of all ethnic groups in China to turn their grief into strength, Xi said.

Jiang's wife Wang Yeping sat in a wheelchair in the front row, looking frail and distraught.

In Jiang's hometown of Yangzhou, about 100 people gathered in front of his former residence to observe the silence after which they were swiftly dispersed by police.

Flags across the country were half-mast as were those at Chinese government buildings overseas.

Stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen suspended trading for three minutes, as did the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange in Hong Kong.

The bourse of Hong Kong suspended the display of data on external screens while senior executives observed the silence.

In the semi-autonomous city's harbour, hundreds of vessels honked for three minutes while officials and government employees observed three minutes of silence.