Internet Holding Slapfight Over Whether Former Chinese President Is Dead
China's former president has gone all "Kim Jong Ill" on everyone and now the entire Internet is fighting about whether or not ex-leader Jiang Zemin being missing from a public photo-op means he is automatically dead. China "sorta" denied it and censors are furiously blocking searches of "Jiang Zemin" on its Sina Corp. Chinese Twitter-thingy. Meanwhile, papers across Asia just went ahead and reported him dead, to be on the safe side. And the entire point of this is that it's entertaining to remember even Communism is no match for pointless Internet rumor shouting matches.
The Internet rumors spread after the 84-year-old Jiang Zemin-- who held power for 12 years before handing control to President Hu Jintao in 2002 -- didn't appear last Friday at a celebration marking the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party's founding. According to the Daily Telegraph, TV stations and newspapers in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea all reported his death, but most outlets are being more careful.
Today, China's Xinhua News Agency quoted officials calling the reports "pure rumor." Interestingly, they didn't say he hadn't died, said David Lampton, director of the China Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University.
Lampton, who made clear he didn't know whether Jiang Zemin was alive or dead -- and didn't want to speculate -- called China's response a "non-denial denial."