Speculation persists on Chinese vice-president

Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 01:00

THE WHEREABOUTS of China’s leader in waiting, vice-president Xi Jinping, remained a mystery yesterday, amid growing speculation that he might be suffering from some kind of illness.

Asked to explain why Mr Xi has not been seen in public since September 1st, during a fraught period just weeks before China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition, foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei responded by saying: “I hope you will raise serious questions.”

During that 10-day period, the elusive Mr Xi has cancelled meetings with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the prime ministers of Singapore and Denmark.

Possibly more significantly, it seems he may have skipped a meeting of the Central Military Commission.

Mr Xi (59) is due to replace outgoing president and Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao following a process that starts at the 18th party congress in October and goes on for several months.

The Reuters news agency quoted two sources saying he had injured his back while swimming. Another rumour had it that he had injured his back playing football, while others said he had had a mild heart attack stroke or even a stroke.

There is also speculation that he may be dealing with the Bo Xilai deposition to ensure a clear path to the congress.