China cracks down on internet rumours of Jiang Zemin's death
Thursday 07 July 2011
There was mounting speculation last night over the health of the retired Chinese supreme leader Jiang Zemin after censors stepped up efforts to block online postings suggesting that he had died.
Although the 84-year-old former president, car-factory manager and Soviet-trained technocrat no longer held any official positions of power, he holds residual influence within the old guard at the top of the Communist Party.
His failure to appear at last week's celebrations to mark the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party's founding was seen as suspicious. There has also been much activity around the People's Liberation Army hospital in Wukesong, which is often read as a sign that a major figure has died or is dying. There have been rumours about his poor health for years but censors have lately started blocking all references to his name.
The internet blocks shows just how secretive the group of men who run the world's most populous nation is about power and succession issues, although the times when a whiff of intrigue about a leader's death would lead to a shutdown at the core of the political leadership in the Zhongnanhai compound – which houses the party headquarters in Beijing – are long gone.
The Communist Party's two main leaders, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, are expected to step aside next year but the 80-million-member Party dislikes any form of potential instability ahead of a big succession and keeps a tight grip on the flow of information.
A former mayor of Shanghai, Mr Jiang was chosen from relative obscurity by then-supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, as a replacement for the reforming party boss Zhao Ziyang.
Mr Zhao was ousted for sympathising with the democracy movement crushed by the army in Beijing in June 1989, and for prompting an internal power struggle that nearly tore the Party apart. Mr Jiang was expected to be a transitional figure – a safe pair of hands – but he showed remarkable political nous, holding onto power for 12 years and continuing to wield influence as chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission for several years after he had been expected to cede it to Mr Hu.
Despite his technocrat image, under Mr Jiang's tutelage China had its longest period of stable economic growth under Communist rule. The country also entered the World Trade Organisation and won the right to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Well-known for his ability to successfully outflank his rivals, he proved adept at imposing himself on the bureaucracy and gave himself plenty of profile abroad. His rendition of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" at a meeting in Manila is legendary.
Searches for "Jiang Zemin" in Chinese or simply "Jiang" – which translates as "river" – prompted warnings on Weibo, China's version of the banned Twitter site, that the search was illegal. Hong Kong television reported his death last night, but there was no information from official channels in mainland China.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...