A day after his TV station shocked the world with a prime-time report of former president Jiang Zemin's 'death', ATV's major shareholder Wang Zheng denied having advance knowledge of the story. 'I learned the 'news' only when I saw the ATV broadcast,' Wang Zheng told reporters outside the station's headquarters in Tai Po yesterday. Immediately after ATV's 6pm news programme on Wednesday reported that the 84-year-old former president had passed away, media around the world, as well as social networking sites, were buzzing with the 'news'. The report followed rife speculation over Jiang's health for several weeks, which intensified when he was conspicuously absent from recent public events, especially the Communist Party's 90th anniversary celebrations last week. But the report was given added credence because of Wang's reputed strong relationship with senior mainland officials and the strong mainland connections that ATV has cultivated over the years. Wang, also known as Wong Ching, is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the central government's top advisory body. He also comes from a so-called 'red princeling' family. Wang, who has lived in Hong Kong for about two decades, is the stepson of the late Communist leader Shu Tong - the Shandong First Party Secretary in the 1950s and deputy director of the PLA Academy of Military Science in the 1970s. When Wang's mother, a Communist Party veteran, died last year, Jiang was among senior figures who sent floral tributes. Both of Wang's parents are buried in Beijing's Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, an honour reserved for the nation's elite. Wang made his fortune by investing in mainland property. When he acquired his majority holding in ATV last year, he said he would transform Hong Kong's oldest TV station into 'Asia's CNN'. The station's two former major stakeholders, Chan Wing-kee and Liu Changle, also have strong ties to senior Communist Party officials. Chan is a Hong Kong member of the CPPCC standing committee and Liu is a Shanghai-born former colonel in the People's Liberation Army. Camoes Tam Chi-keung, associate professor of journalism at Macau University of Science and Technology, said he believed the report would not damage the good ties between Wang, ATV and Beijing. 'The central government has spent lots of time and money cultivating the network and channel. They would not give it up over a single event like that,' he said. Tam noted that major mistakes over senior mainland officials had occurred in other pro-Beijing media, including Wen Wei Po in the past. After denying that he knew of the 'news' Wang added, 'I suppose these kinds of things are unavoidable in a society like Hong Kong ... I think there is no need to overreact. I hope the news isn't true, either.' Tam said the remark referred to the strong media competition in Hong Kong. 'ATV might have made the mistake as it wanted to gamble on a scoop,' Tam said. The Broadcasting Authority received 18 complaints over the ATV report yesterday, with many saying the news was misleading. The watchdog said it would follow up the cases.