Jiang Zemin, former Communist Party General Secretary seen here in a file photo. (Photo/Reuters)
The former Chinese leader who was at the helm of China for 12 years is reportedly dead or dying according to unconfirmed sources in China.
Jiang Zemin, 84, handed over the reigns to Hu Jintao in 2003 and is expected to take an important role in next year’s change of leadership.
The Wednesday night’s tsunami of internet reports and comments on Jiang’s death was prompted after he failed to appear for 90th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party last week.
Hong Kong and overseas Chinese press reported Jiang suffered a heart attack and was surviving on a respirator. The octogenarian’s failing health had in the past as well given rise to rumours of his death.
The Chinese censorship machinery went in to overdrive blocking all references to the leaders name, Jiang which means river in mandarin. Searches for the leader’s name on the internet in China resulted in the warning: "Search results are not shown due to relevant laws and policies."
The Wall Street Journal's website reported that popular microblogging site Sina blocked searches for words such as "myocardial infarction", "hung" – a euphemism for death – and "301 Hospital" – a reference to the medical facility that often treats top leaders.
The BBC reported that the government's press office, the State Council Information Office, declined to respond to questions about Jiang.
However, in a report carried by Xinhua earlier today, the state news agency quoted 'authorotative sources' as saying that reports on Jiang Zemin's death were 'pure rumours'.