Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin’s school call seen as response to health rumours
Jiang Zemin congratulates a school on its anniversary as speculation swirls over his condition ahead of a key Communist Party leadership reshuffle
A top school in Shanghai said former president Jiang Zemin had made a phone call on Wednesday to congratulate it on the 30th anniversary of its founding, amid widespread speculation over the health of the retired leader.
Rumours have been rife in the past few days in overseas Chinese media and mainland China’s social media that Jiang may have serious health problems and may even be in hospital. .
The rumours have come just months ahead of the Communist Party’s five-yearly reshuffle of top officials this autumn. The health of retired top leaders is a sensitive issue in China, as they can often have influence over major personnel decisions.
There has been frequent speculation in recent years over the health of Jiang, who will turn 91 in August, but previous rumours have always gone away after he made public appearances.
The phone call to the Shanghai Experimental School on Wednesday was also seen as a rebuttal of the latest rumours.
The principal of the school, the entrance of which is inscribed with Chinese calligraphy written by Jiang when it was founded by the Shanghai government in 1987, said she received a phone call from the former president around 1 pm, according to the school’s official social media account.
“Grandpa Jiang is turning 91 this year, therefore he could not come to the school in person to join our celebration for the anniversary. He has read letters from our children and was very moved,” the principal, Xu Hong, was quoted as saying in an article posted on the school’s account on Wednesday night.
“Grandpa Jiang said: ‘Although I cannot come in person, my heart is forever with you. Principal Xu, please send my greetings to the students, teachers and my warm congratulations to the school,’” Xu was quoted as saying in the post.
Jiang’s son, Jiang Mianheng, has recently visited several universities in the US in his capacity as president of ShanghaiTech University, according to the college’s website, in a further sign that his father was unlikely to be in poor health.
The senior Jiang retired as the party’s general secretary in 2002, but held on to his position as commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s biggest army, for two more years.