BEIJING (Reuters) - Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin was resting at home last week as rumors swirled that he had died, prompting at least two media outlets to report he had in fact passed away, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Citing sources who had "been briefed about Jiang's health", the South China Morning Post said the 84-year-old had been admitted to a Beijing military hospital last month with a fever.
But he was discharged before the July 1 celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party, the report said. His non-appearance at that event had begun the speculation about his demise, as many other former leaders did show up.
"The sources said doctors had advised Jiang to stay at home because it would be too physically demanding for him to sit through the main ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, which lasted nearly two hours," the paper said.
"The sources say the exact cause of Jiang's illness is unclear but it was less serious than a heart attack or stroke."
Sources told Reuters last week that Jiang was in intensive care in Beijing at the No. 301 military hospital after suffering a heart attack.
In the opaque world of Chinese politics, the health of a leader is fodder for rumors about how the balance of power is shifting at the highest levels of the government.
Current President Hu Jintao retires from office from late next year in a sweeping leadership overhaul, and the rumors about Jiang's health underscore the uncertainties around this.
A Hong Kong television station and a Japanese newspaper reported that he had died. Chinese state media then came out with a brief statement, denying those reports as "pure rumor".
Beijing has said nothing else about Jiang's health.
Reports about sensitive topics in the highest echelons of power in China frequently circulate in the overseas Chinese language media, especially in freewheeling Hong Kong and Taiwan.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Donny Kwok in Hong Kong; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)