Missing Chinese Leader Sends Condolences

Washington, Sep 13 (IANS): Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who disappeared from public view weeks before a Communist Party congress, has sent condolences over the death of an official, a media report said.

CNN reported Thursday that the name of the presumptive Chinese leader Xi Jinping has appeared in state media for the first time in nearly two weeks.

The 59-year-old vice president's name appeared on a message of condolence following the Sep 6 death of a former official in Guangxi province.

"After the passing of Comrade Huang Rong, Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, Li Yuanchao, Zhu Rongji and Li Zhaozhuo expressed their condolences and conveyed their deep sympathies to his family," it said.

The vice-president's name appears second on the list after President Hu.

The US broadcaster said the message did not have any direct quotes from Xi, and its existence doesn't provide any explanation as to why Xi has dropped from public view.

Xi has not been seen in public since Sep 1 when he was reported to have given a speech to the Central Party School in Beijing.

Since then, there has been considerable speculation following the cancellation of a number of meetings with high-profile foreign dignitaries.

Xi's meeting with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was suddenly cancelled Sep 5.

No official reasons were also given for the cancellation of other appointments, including a meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

CNN said the lack of an official comment has fuelled rumours, including wild plot lines ranging from a car crash to an assassination attempt. Others say Xi has been sidelined by a suspected heart attack or stroke, neither of which have been denied or confirmed.

"In most countries including in Asia, people are entitled to know the health of their leaders, but in China this is still regarded as state secrets," Willy Lam, a China watcher, was quoted as saying.

China's leadership transition is keenly watched after Bo Xilai, once a fast-rising star in the party, was stripped of his leadership positions in April for an unspecified "breach of party discipline". He has not been seen publicly since.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai was convicted last month of murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman, and received a suspended death sentence.


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