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China's Internet censors on Wednesday began blocking searches for several terms related to Jiang Zemin, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party--or CCP.
It came as Chinese websites, blogs--and even some Hong Kong media--said that Jiang has died or is near death. The 84-year-old did not attend the July 1st celebrations of the CCP's 90th anniversary--and that may have prompted rumors about his health.
State-run Xinhua News Agency officially stated in Thursday that Jiang is indeed alive. In China's heavily controlled media environment, it's hard to get independent confirmation.
Though officially out of power since 2003, Jiang heads one of several cliques within the secretive Party that's jockeying for power and position.
While in power, Jiang led the largest campaign of suppression against Chinese citizens in decades: the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice.
Jiang's campaign against Falun Gong--which is ongoing today--has seen hundreds of thousands sent to labor camps. Documentation shows at least 3,400 Falun Gong practitioners have been killed or tortured to death, though the actual number may be higher. It's unclear what effect Jiang's death would have on the persecution.