Late Chinese leader Jiang Zemin's ashes are scattered at mouth of Yangtze River

FILE PHOTO: Memorial meeting for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing
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BEIJING (Reuters) - The ashes of late Chinese leader Jiang Zemin were scattered into the sea at the mouth of the Yangtze River on Sunday, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

A special plane carrying the ashes circled and flew slowly over the capital Beijing on Sunday morning, bidding farewell to the place where he had devoted himself to the cause of the Communist Party and the country, it said.

Jiang, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Nov. 30 at the age of 96.

After arriving in Shanghai, the ashes were taken by hearse to the Wusong military port. Then Jiang's relatives escorted the ashes aboard the Yangzhou, a Chinese People's Liberation Army warship which was named after Jiang's hometown Yangzhou, Xinhua said.

At the mouth of the Yangtze River, Jiang's widow Wang Yeping and other relatives, as well as Cai Qi, a senior Communist Party member, slowly scattered Jiang's ashes and colourful flower petals to the river and sea, it said.

"Comrade Jiang Zemin devoted his life unreservedly to the motherland and the people," Xinhua said.

At a memorial service for Jiang on Tuesday, President Xi Jinping paid tribute to the former leader for ensuring the Communist Party's survival from "political storms" and reforming it to inject new vitality and modernise the country's economy.

Under Jiang, China weathered the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 and won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

(Reporting by Judy Hua and Ryan Woo; Editing by Frances Kerry)