Rong Yiren, China's billionaire 'red capitalist' and former Vice-Chairman, died in Beijing on October 26 at the age of 89. The official Xinhua News Agency revealed his membership in the Communist Party, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had concealed for 20 years in order to create the appearance of widespread support for the Party.
On November 3, Xinhua, the CCP's official media outlet, published a 3000-word account of Rong's life, passing final judgment on him and treating him with unusual honor for a noncommunist figure. At the same time Xinhua revealed that as early as July 1 in 1985 Rong had officially joined the CCP.
Though a member of the widely persecuted upper class, Rong was initially accepted by the Party after he turned over his family fortune to the CCP. He was severely persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, but in the 1970's rose to prominence as a key player in China's economic expansion.
Rong was presented as an outsider and a nonconformist who followed his own path. The CCP played on this reputation to present the illusion that the Party tolerated outsiders in positions of power, attempting to belie the reality of the one-party rule that has gripped China since 1949.
Many Hong Kong news media believe that the CCP concealed Rong's party membership to create the illusion that "democrats without party affiliation" could usefully influence public opinion. This deception added to the CCP's claim that it is a united front of various political forces within China, when in fact no such forces exist.
On November 4, coincidently, the American business magazine Forbes Global published its latest list of the Richest People in China. Rong's son, Larry Yung, also known as Rong Zhijian, ranked first on the list of 400, with a personal fortune of 13.3 billion yuan (US$1.64 billion.) It is reported that the in the first half of 2005, the Rong family business has recouped a profit of sixty percent on their investments, primarily in steel, iron and real estate.