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China's absent vice-president Xi Jinping sparks power struggle rumours

China's vice-president Xi Jinping has not been seen in public in more than a week Photo: Reuters

I have just asked the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman if the vice-president, Xi Jinping, has been injured, is he fit and well? I added.

The spokesman Hong Lei replied "I have no information to provide to you". In China, the health of the country's leadership is treated as a state secret.

He was then asked, by a Reuters journalist, if the vice-president was alive. "I hope you will raise some serious questions", Mr Hong responded.

Xi Jinping has now not been seen in public for ten days. He has missed four meetings including one with Hillary Clinton last week which was cancelled at the last minute.

In the absence of official explanations, rumours have spread fast, including claims that Xi Jinping has hurt his back while swimming, has had a heart attack or been injured during a failed assassination attempt. The latest being reported by Japanese media is that Mr Xi has been stabbed in the back, literally.

This new theory would tie with claims that the leaders of China are involved in a vicious power struggle following the sacking of a rising star of Chinese politics, Bo Xilai.

The Bo scandal was sparked by the death of a British businessman in a hotel room in Chongqing and Gu Kailai. Mr Bo's wife, has been convicted of his murder. Bo Xilai himself has not been seen since March.

Speculation, however wild, is bound to continue as long as there's no sign of the vice-president.

Xi

Especially at such a crucial time, as the Communist Party prepares to handover the presidency to Mr Xi at a party congress expected to be held next month.

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