China on Wednesday denied rumors that the only grandson of former Chinese strongman Mao Zedong was among the casualties in a bus accident in North Korea last month.
Responding to a written request by the Chosun Ilbo, The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the rumors are “groundless” but did not give details about the whereabouts of Mao Xinyu (48).
The rumors were first reported by the Chinese-language version of Radio Free International on Tuesday, citing sources who said the 32 people killed in the crash were members of a group that reveres Mao Zedong and included the children of several soldiers who fought on North Korea’s side in the Korean War.
A post on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, on Wednesday said Mao Xinyu is “alive and well in Beijing.”
Kai Lei, a senior reporter with Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po, wrote, “I can confidently say that the rumors are false.”
Kai, who has 360,000 follower on Weibo, said he is a close friend of Mao Xinyu and added he never joined any tour group that headed to North Korea and was living in Beijing until Tuesday.
Duowei News, a Chinese-language news outlet in the U.S., claimed the reason why the Chinese government has not published a list of victims of the North Korean bus crash is that they are not high-ranking officials or other prominent figures.
Duowei also reported that Mao Xinyu, a major-general in the Chinese military, is too senior a figure to travel to North Korea on a package tour, and there would be no reason for Beijing to be silent about his death.