Vietnam held an emotional memorial for president Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi Thursday before his body was carried through the city with weeping residents and police lining the streets to bid him a final farewell. Quang died on Friday at age 61 after a long illness that officials described only as a "rare virus". A long-serving communist stalwart and former national police chief, Quang was celebrated for his dedication to the country that he spent much of his career serving. "The leader with many contributions to the country bid farewell to us... a great loss for the family and the nation," Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said at a ceremony Thursday. Quang's family, dressed in black with white headbands, stood near his coffin draped in the national flag and beneath a portrait of the leader and a framed collection of his medals."My father's wish was to spend his whole life contributing to the nation and revolutionary cause," Quang's son Tran Quan told the funeral home packed with uniformed police and officials wearing black armbands.
Quang's red coffin -- emblazoned with Vietnam's national logo in gold -- later began a procession through Hanoi on a cannon carriage followed by trucks of uniformed soldiers with the country's top leaders walking behind for a few minutes. The coffin was greeted by mourners, some in tears, as it snaked through Hanoi's rain-slicked streets with police officers saluting it. "It's an honour for me to be on duty today, for the funeral of the president but also police chief... it's a great loss that he is gone," officer Nguyen Van Duc told AFP. Quang headed the powerful Ministry of Public Security for five years before becoming president in 2016. His role as head-of-state was largely ceremonial and he spent much of his time greeting world leaders and hosting high-level diplomatic events. Analysts say his death is not likely to shake up politics in the one-party communist state. His state funeral will end Thursday with his burial in his home province of Ninh Binh, south of Hanoi. Some 50,000 people paid respects to Quang in several cities across the country during the two days of national mourning, during which all entertainment venues were shut.