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Chinese ex-foreign minister Qin Gang resigns after missing from public view since last year

Qin was once considered a close confidante of Chinese President Xi Jinping and served as foreign minister for only seven months. He mysteriously disappeared from public view in June 2023 and it was rumoured that he had an extra-marital affair with a well-known TV personality.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Beijing Published on: February 27, 2024 17:08 IST
China, Qin Gang resigns, Chinese legislature
Image Source : AP (FILE) China's former foreign minister Qin Gang.

Beijing: China's former foreign minister, Qin Gang, who has been missing from public view since last June, resigned his seat in the national legislature, according to state media reports on Tuesday. The 57-year-old Qin was dismissed from office in July in one of China's biggest political surprises in years.

Qin served as foreign minister for only seven months before he disappeared from public view last June. The government announced a month later that he had been dismissed from his post. He has yet to resurface publicly. He was replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi.

According to a notice by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the Tianjin Municipal People's Congress accepted Qin's resignation as a delegate to the upcoming annual parliamentary session. Qin's disappearance was the subject of widespread speculation, including reports that he had an extramarital affair while serving as ambassador to the US.

The National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, is set to convene for its annual session in early March in Beijing, expected to be dominated by the country's ailing economy. China's economy expanded by 5.2 per cent last year but is forecast to slow sharply this year, bogged down by a property crisis, high youth unemployment and massive local government debt.

Qin's mysterious disappearance

Qin, once considered a close aide of President Xi, was known for skewering one-liners and punchlines wrapped in metaphors to defend the government. However, some Taiwanese, as well as Western media, reported about his alleged "extramarital affairs" with a renowned Hong Kong TV personality Fu Xiaotian.

As a TV anchor at Phoenix TV HK, Xiaotian interviewed top international personalities. She had interviewed Qin where the duo's "gesture" during the conversation was a little bit different or said to be "suspicious". She also disappeared from public view along with Qin. An investigation was focused on whether his conduct had compromised China's national security, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hashtags on social media concerning Qin were censored by the popular Chinese app Weibo, according to a report by CNN. One of the hashtags tried to evade censors by focusing on a television show based on China's ancient Qin dynasty. Only posts from verified accounts, state media or government agencies showed hashtags about Wang's appointment.

Li Shangfu's disappearance

Qin's disappearance and ouster was followed by the disappearance of another top official - Defence Minister Li Shangfu. Both officials were also believed to be close confidants of Xi and Li's absence from a meeting with senior Vietnamese defence officials on September 7 and 8 heightened speculations over his disappearance. He was conspicuously missing from an important military meeting held in September.

Li was ousted in October and replaced by Dong Jun. Additionally, two leaders responsible for managing China's nuclear arsenal - General Li Yuchao, who previously led the People Liberation Army's (PLA) Rocket unit, and his deputy General Liu Guangbin, also mysteriously disappeared for months. They were replaced as well.

According to recent reports, Li was also removed from a key military command body and his name was removed from the defence ministry website, although he is still a member of the legislature. There is no indication that the disappearances of Li and Qin signal a change in China's foreign or defence policies, although they have raised questions about the resilience of President Xi Jinping's power.

(with reports from agencies)

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