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“Jiang Zemin’s Dead” is an internet rumor which speculated that the Chinese General Secretary Jiang Zemin has passed away. The rumor spread across the Chinese web in early July 2011, following his conspicuous absence from the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party held in Beijing.
News reports and rumors about the declining health of Jiang first surfaced as early as in December 2010, when the 84-year-old leader of the Chinese Communist Party took absence from the funeral of former Chinese foreign minister Huang Hua.
90th Anniversary of CPC
On July 1st, 2011, the Communist Party of China celebrated its 90th anniversary at the People’s Hall in Beijing. However, the former Chinese President and General Secretary Jiang Zemin was no where to be found at the monumental event, leading some netizens to speculate that Zemin was either suffering from illness or has already passed away.
Within days, the baseless rumor rapidly snowballed into an online phenomenon and some netizens began to spread the phrase “北京有大人不行了” (“A great man in Beijing is dead”) through social networking services.
The rumor rapidly spread across major social networking and microblogging platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Sina. On July 5th, Chinese dissident news site Boxun published a short article entitled “Rumor says Jiang Zemin has liver cancer, was in deep coma with his heart malfunctioning”:
Boxun reported that Former President Jiang Zemin was admitted into Beijing 301 Hospital with severe sickness, but information about the hospital Jiang is living in maybe wrong. According to a more trusted source that gave us information just now, Jiang Zemin is living in Shanghai Hospital. He is suffering from liver cancer and his heart is malfunctioning. However, his brain cells are still working.
Sources leaked to Boxun that foreign media paid close attention to Beijing 301 Hospital and a hospital somewhere in Shanghai (Eastern China) recently. However, more reporters are moving to Shanghai to keep track on Jiang’s situation.
On the same night, the rumor of Jiang’s death began to circulate in Hong Kong after Poon Siu-to, the host of Sino Stream on Commercial Radio 1 discovered the speculations via Facebook and mentioned it on-air.
On July 6th, Hong Kong and other Asian media outlets picked up on the rumor and carried headlines that Jiang was “critically ill.” That same evening, Hong Kong-based TV station ATV reported during its evening news program that Jiang had died in Beijing, triggering another wave of gossips and debates among Hong Kong netizens.
Following ATV’s news report, the website became flooded and paralyzed with sudden influx of netizens, many of whom were skeptical about Jiang’s death. Some users of Facebook said “It’s Jiang Zemin’s death or ATV’s.”
On that same day, Boxun initially reported that “Former leader Jiang died at midnight at Beijing 301 Hospital, but within hours the news site issued a correction: “We reported that Jiang was in critical condition or died based on several sources, but a figure in Beijing called us at noon to inform us that his condition has improved.”
Chinese Authorities Responds
In response, China’s media censors began blocking search terms including "Jiang Zemin and “Jiang” on popular search engine portals like Baidu in an attempt to suppress the inflating rumors.
On the popular microblogging service Sina, searches were blocked for keywords including “301,” the name of the Beijing military hospital where China’s top leaders are treated. Also blocked was Jiang’s name, which means “river” in Chinese, as well as “brain death” and “brain dead.” However, savvy Internet users quickly found ways around the restrictions by only using synonyms of “river” in referring to or discussing Jiang.
Meanwhile, China’s official state news agency Xinhua published a one-line dispatch on July 7th, declaring that overseas media reports of Jiang’s death were “pure rumor,” quoting “authoritative sources."
On July 7th, ATV released an official statement to apologize for the false report without attribution:
ATV noted the report that Xinhua released this afternoon, and withdraws the report about the death of Jiang Zemin done last night. We apologize to the audience, Mr Jiang Zemin and his family.
Following the official response from the Chinese authorities, a group of Hong Kong and other dissident netizens began to poke fun at the media frenzy. On July 7th, Facebook user Cuson Lo posted the following cartoon:
In the cartoon, Jiang says to ATV:
Do you wanna die? I just wanted to sleep in a coffin, why did you report that I’m dead?
HKGolden members also quipped at the Chinese by stating “The Chinese finally has their own Easter! Jiang Zemin has risen in less than 3 days!” while celebration of Christian festivals are forbidden in China. Moreover, a Facebook page was created in support of ATV’s report entitled “President Jiang, We believe that ATV is the conscience of Hong Kong (Let’s push this to the world)” alluding to the network’s slogan “ATV, the conscience of Hong Kong.”
Reappearance of Jiang
On October 9 2011, Jiang was present at the 1911 Revolution Commemoration Ceremony. It was the first time of Jiang being present at public occasions since 2009.
When Jiang was entering and leaving the Great Hall of the People, Jiang needed physical support from others, yet able to stand up by himself when singing the national anthem of China. According to some reports, Jiang was not able to attend the public occasions before because of some health issue of his leg. His reappearance attracted a lot of attention from the media and public.
Facebook Page – We believe that ATV is the conscience of Hong Kong
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