A top government spokesman dismissed as a hoax Wednesday a report that Singapore’s founding father had died.
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is alive, said Farah Rahim, senior director for the Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information. The 91-year-old, who has been in a hospital with pneumonia since February 5, is in critical condition, the government has said.
A message purporting to be from the current Prime Minister circulated online Wednesday saying that Lee had died. CNN published that news on its breaking news Twitter account before updating the account to quote Singapore’s government spokesman dismissing the news as a hoax. The network has since deleted the original tweet.
“We have reported this to the police and they are investigating this hoax. Our website was not hacked, it was a doctored image,” the spokesman said.
In the last official communication from Prime Minister’s office about Lee, earlier Wednesday, the office said that Lee “remains critically ill in the ICU and has deteriorated further.”
A day earlier, it said that Lee, on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of Singapore General Hospital, had an infection and was being treated with antibiotics.
Born in 1923, Lee co-founded the city state in 1965 when it declared its independence from Malaysia and was its prime minister for more than three decades.
Lee was succeeded as prime minister by Goh Chok Tong in 1990, before Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong took power in August 2004.
The elder Lee has been credited with Singapore’s remarkable transformation from a colonial trading post to a prosperous financial center.
However, he has also been a divisive figure, attracting criticism for stifling media freedom and for the harsh treatment of political opponents.