Chinese reform politician Wan Li dies at 99

BEIJING (AP) — Wan Li, a Chinese politician known for his reform policies, died Wednesday at the age of 99, state media said.

The state-run digital publication The Paper, citing Wan's son, said he died in Beijing. State broadcaster CCTV also reported Wan's death.

Wan was the chairman of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, in 1989 when students gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square for pro-democracy demonstrations. Wan's stance on the protests was never made clear, though he never openly opposed the bloody military crackdown that ended them.

Wan, however, was a close ally of the ruling Communist Party's secretary general at the time, Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted for his support of the students and was under house arrest until his death in 2005.

Wan was best known for the reform policies that he began implementing in the late 1970s, especially in rural China.

When he was the party chief for the eastern province of Anhui, he became a pioneer for China's rural reforms that would replace the commune system.

He also was one of the country's first leaders to retire from his positions in the party and government, helping to end the practice by Chinese politicians of serving lifetime tenures.