11 Sep 2012

Speculation grows over absent Chinese politician

9:24 pm on 11 September 2012

Speculation is growing about the whereabouts of China's leader in waiting, Xi Jinping, after he cancelled another meeting with a foreign visitor - the fourth cancellation in a week.

Rumours in China about what could be the reason for the cancellations are spreading fast.

Mr Xi cancelled a meeting with visiting Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Monday and failed to attend an important Communist Party meeting last Friday.

The vice-president is expected to be appointed China's president at a party congress in October that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership.

However, no date has been set for the meeting, fuelling reports that power struggles in the leadership have yet to be resolved, the BBC reports.

Journalists had been given several days' notice of Mr Xi's scheduled meeting with the Danish leader, but the planned talks were taken off the programme.

Last Wednesday, he abruptly called off a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On a visit to Washington earlier this year Mr Xi was given a reception benefiting a head of state. He has also missed appointments with Singapore's prime minister and a Russian official.

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry evaded questions about Mr Xi's absence at a briefing on Monday, according to reports, saying he had "no information" to provide.

"We have told everybody everything," Hong Lei said, when pressed.

In response, there has been an inevitable wave of rumours, the BBC reports, with explanations on news sites and Twitter ranging from Mr Xi's possible involvement in a car accident to a power struggle.