There has been speculation that former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin died, which led government Internet censors to suppress any such discussion on the subject online.

By midnight, local searches on Zemin had become popular. But the heavy hand of China's censors descended and within half an hour Chinese language searches for words relating to death, even without being paired with Jiang's name, began to return the message saying: According to relevant policies and laws, the search results are not shown below.

Rumors about Zemin's ill health have been circulating for some time and the fact that he missed the recent important event in Beijing commemorating the founding of China’s Communist Party added more fuel to the speculation fire.

Jiang is believed to wield considerable influence over the party, despite his advanced age of 84. Any questions about his health might be viewed as compromising the stability and dominance of the party itself.

Zemin's absence at the party conference was noteworthy since other top former officials, including former prime ministers Li Peng and Zhu Rongji, attended it. He has reportedly suffered a heart attack and was seriously ill in a Beijing military hospital, according to Hong Kong and other foreign media sources. Apparently, all this chatter became too much for the authorities.

China’s Weibo service (which is similar to Twitter in the U.S.) on Wednesday censored such phrases as Jiang Zemin and general secretary.

About the news that Jiang Zemin has passed away, news organizations can't do reports on their own, all news reports should be in accordance with news releases from Xinhua [official state news agency], a positing on Weibo stated.

Jiang has not been seen in public since he attended a celebration with President Hu Jintao in October 2009 which commemorated the 60th anniversary of the founding of Communist China.

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