China denied reports Thursday that former leader Jiang Zemin has died.
Chinese state media, the Xinhua news agency, said the media and internet reports were “pure rumor,” reports BBC.
“Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are pure rumor,” the news agency said, as reported in CNN.
The denial comes after speculation surrounding the health of the 84-year-old former leader. The rumor of his death was trigged by Jiang not appearing at a Communist Party event Friday.
In addition to denying the reports, China has gone out of its way to censor information on Jiang. BBC reports that censors have been blocking searches of his name, deleting local posts about him and blocking reports in foreign media about his health.
Web users have responded to the censorship by writing cryptic posts about the former leader, it states.
Jiang led China through the 1990s, coming to power after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He presided over the country’s massive economic boom. He also saw the return to China of Hong Kong from Great Britain and Macau from Portugal.
“During his 13 years as general secretary of the Communist Party and nearly 10 years as president, Jiang mixed economic freedom and political control to move forward the so-called ‘market socialism’ introduced by his predecessor Deng Xiaoping,” CNN states.