Hu Yaobang, an outspoken reformer who led the world's largest Communist Party until a 1987 purge consigned him to political oblivion, died of heart failure Saturday. He was 73.

The protege of senior leader Deng Xiaoping died one week after he suffered a heart attack during a meeting of the Politburo, the ruling body that dismissed him as party general secretary two years before.The Chinese Communist Party he led for seven years described Hu as a "great proletarian revolutionary" and "loyal communist fighter" who led a glorious life with "everlasting merits for the party and the people."

But Hu suffered from his party's swift ideological shifts. His political fortunes rose after Mao Tse-tung's death, and he helped revive China's economy through market-oriented reforms.