Sunday 9 October 2011
The former Chinese president Jiang Zemin has made a rare public appearance in Beijing after months of speculation that he had died or was close to death.
The 85-year-old appeared on stage with other former and current top Chinese leaders in the Great Hall of the People at an event commemorating the centennial of the 1911 republican revolution that originally overthrew imperial rule in China, some decades before the communist takeover of 1949.
Dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie, Jiang wore his signature large, square-rimmed glasses as he sat listening to speeches with his hands on the table in front of him. At times he appeared tired.
Jiang’s failure to appear at a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist party in July prompting intense speculation that he had died. While the rumours were suppressed on the mainland, they were widely reported in Hong Kong.
The Chinese government dismissed the reports as rumours.
Beijing’s traditional secrecy on the health of top leaders is particularly marked ahead of next year’s party congress, which is expected to confirm a transition in China’s leadership.
The death of Jiang, a retired but still influential figure, could cause some of his proteges to shift allegiance, affecting the jockeying for power among China’s political elites. China prefers to keep such machinations behind the scenes.
Jiang led the country for 12 years and through massive changes after crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, transferring power to President Hu Jintao in 2002.