BEIJING, Sept 11 China's leader-in-waiting Xi
Jinping, who has set off a storm of rumours after not showing up
at scheduled public events for over a week, is nursing an
ailment, possibly a back injury suffered while swimming, sources
said on Tuesday.
Xi, who is due to take over the presidency of the world's
second-largest economy in March next year, has skipped several
meetings with visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries over the
past week, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
the premiers of Singapore and Denmark.
China's government, however, has declined to spell out what
is ailing Xi, 59 - in keeping with decades of official secrecy
over the health of senior leaders, a tradition viewed in the
West as out of step with a modern state and emerging superpower.
"Xi injured his back when he went for his daily swim," a
source close to the Beijing leadership said after Xi's absence
from the public stage was first noticed last week. At that
stage, he had failed to keep scheduled meetings with Clinton and
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The source declined to give further details on the injury,
including exactly when and where the incident took place.
Another source, citing people close to Xi, said: "He's
unwell, but it's not a big problem."
Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity.
The lack of an official explanation has fuelled Internet
speculation surrounding Xi's condition, culminating in some
unusual questions at a regular briefing by China's foreign
ministry on Monday. One of the queries concerned a rumour that
Xi had been injured or involved in a car accident.
"I have already answered reporters' questions on this many
times," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. "I
have nothing new to add."
Xi had been scheduled to meet visiting Danish Prime Minister
Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Monday afternoon for a photo
opportunity, according to a media advisory that had been
circulated ahead of the event. But the event did not take place.
A Danish embassy official declined to comment.
The foreign ministry's website shows Xi's most recent public
appearance was at a ceremony at the ruling Communist Party's
Central Party School in Beijing on Sept. 1.