China's Missing Vice President Is 'Unwell, but It's Not a Big Problem'

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The Chinese government still won't say what's going on with "missing" vice president Xi Jingping, but assurances that his absences are no big deal don't sound very reassuring. Reuters quotes two unnamed sources that said Xi injured his back while swimming, and that's the reason he had to unexpectedly cancel meetings with several foreign diplomats in the last few weeks. A third confessed that "He's unwell, but it's not a big problem." Ok, then. It's now been ten days since his last public appearance on September 1.

If it's such a minor incident you'd think the government might make some sort of official comment, if for no other reason than to stamp out the rumors that are furiously flying. Instead, China's biggest social media site, Sina Weibo, has blocked all mentions of Xi's name and reporters have been scolded for asking about his whereabouts. Those rules have naturally been skirted by network users who nicknamed Xi, "the crown prince" since he is expected to take over the presidency of country next month. China has always been reluctant to discuss private details of its leaders, but has censorship becomes harder and harder to enforce, as we're seeing with could be a rather innocuous story, that silence can sometimes cause more trouble than its worth.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.