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CHINA REPORTS DEATH AT 77 OF EX-VICE PREMIER

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Yao Yilin, a former vice premier and a conservative economist, has died at 77.

Yao died Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency announced Monday, but the dispatch gave no cause of death. Yao disappeared from view for months in 1991, reportedly due to a long illness, and has not been seen in public since he retired from his last official post in 1992.The official obituary described Yao as "an outstanding proletarian revolutionary and eminent economic planner" and said "Yao's death is a great loss to the (Communist) party and the country."

The death of a member of the older generation of leaders serves as another reminder of the mortality of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, 90. Although formally retired, Deng still wields considerable influence, and there have been persistent rumors in recent months of his failing health.

Yao, a conservative economic planner, was associated with China's periods of economic retrenchment since it embarked on market-oriented economic reforms in 1979. He was a prominent figure in 1989, when reforms were rolled back following the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.