Jiang Zemin Could Die Any Day

July 10, 2011 5:30 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 4:16 pm
Jiang Zemin in 2007. (Fredric J. Brown/AFP)
Jiang Zemin in 2007. (Fredric J. Brown/AFP)

Jiang Zemin’s brain is dead but his body is being kept alive through an artificial respirator, according to recent reports from Japanese and Hong Kong media, echoing what has been passed around among insiders and China watchers for the last several days.

Jiang’s family has given approval to pull the plug, but the “inner echelon” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) needs to make the final decision, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported on July 9.

Meanwhile, anything that resembles a search keyword related to Jiang has been banished.

“The Central Propaganda Department has issued a ban of news related to Jiang’s death,” according to the Chinese website Aboluowang, which features leaks from CCP sources. “The media can only publish Xinhua-issued information.” The page includes a photograph of an “urgent notice,” allegedly official in provenance, that lists the forbidden keywords related to Jiang.

Speculation about the fate of Jiang Zemin, former supreme leader of the Chinese Communist Party, has been intense since he missed the CCP’s 90th birthday party on July 1. On July 7 he was declared dead by Hong Kong’s ATV, before the station quietly retracted its report.

Many in Chinese media circles assumed ATV’s announcement meant something significant was afoot, given that a major investor in the broadcaster, Wang Zheng, is reportedly the nephew of Jiang’s wife.

Since then reports have been confused. Xinhua, the state mouthpiece, published a statement denying the rumors without explicitly stating that Jiang was not dead or dying—and unusually, only published the notice in English.

The way Jiang’s death has been handled by the regime’s propaganda administration is redolent of the death of former Vice-Premier Huang Ju. In that case a Hong Kong broadcaster, Phoenix, first broke the news of his death on May 9, 2007, before retracing its steps and giving an apology an hour later.

But Xinhua reported the actual death on June 2—also setting that date for when he was supposed to have died.

The date of Jiang’s death has not been set. Asahi Shimbun expects a “major announcement” soon.