Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Where is Xi?

There's wild speculation as to what happened to Xi
Will Vice President Xi Jinping please come out and tell us how he's doing?

He has not made a public appearance in nine days, cancelling out on his latest appointment with Danish leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt yesterday and last week with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The strange thing is that the Chinese government alerted the media in advance that Xi would meet with Thorning-Schmidt, but when it was cancelled, this was brought up with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

He had the temerity to refuse to say whether such a meeting had been planned and later cancelled.

These comments are just creating more rumours, which range from Xi being in a car accident, to suffering a stroke, to having a bad back from swimming or playing sports, or even being injured from an assassination attempt.

People's imaginations are running wild to say the least.

Someone who claims to have good sources said he may have Bell's Palsy, his face contorted not making him look good for the cameras, while another said he strained his back from swimming which seems strange unless he slipped and fell after he swam.

In any event the silence over Xi's whereabouts have led people to speculate whether he was OK physically and politically.

"The whole saga shows that China still keeps the lives of its leaders a secret," said Qiao Mu, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. "It is a rigid pattern that has been used by officials to deal with rumours over the past decades, and it is not going to change.

"The leaders think that the public does not need to know about them, and all the confusion will be cleared up when they show up at meetings."

While Johnny Lau Yiu-siu, a Hong Kong-based China watcher says it is unlikely Xi was politically purged, he said Beijing should be more transparent when it comes to the top leadership.

"Without a proper account of what has happened over the past weeks, the rumours will remain rampant even if Xi makes a public appearance."

Or perhaps what happened to Xi will remain a state secret, much like President Hu Jintao diagnosed as a diabetic.

Why is his diabetes a state secret? It would humanize the man and make people more aware of the health issue if more people knew about it.

But no, any mention of it on the mainland could land you into serious trouble.

Which is why I'm writing about it in Hong Kong and not Beijing.

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