• Saturday, 13 July 2024

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang removed from office

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang removed from office

Beijing, 25 July 2023 (dpa/MIA) - Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who has not appeared in public for a month, was removed from office on Tuesday in a vote by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

His predecessor, Wang Yi, who used to be foreign minister, will take up the post again.

No official explanation for the move was provided.

There has been intense speculation about the fate of Qin, whose last public appointment was in Beijing on June 25. The 57-year-old has not been seen since.

China's top diplomat Wang Yi, who ranks above Qin in the state hierarchy, has represented the foreign minister several times in recent weeks. 

A Foreign Ministry spokesman had initially said in response to questions that Qin was unwell.

However, there was also speculation about a possible extramarital affair with a journalist. Asked about this, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she had "no information" on the matter. 

Questions about Qin's whereabouts were removed from minutes of the daily press conferences published online, prompting criticism within the country as well as international consternation.

Beijing's senior leadership is taking a "black box approach," said Wu Qiang, a former politics professor at Tsinghua University.

"Everybody is concerned about something, but cannot say it in public," Hu Xijin, a commentator known to take a more nationalist line, wrote in the Weibo social network after Qin stopped being seen in public.

The disappearance of high-ranking officials, celebrities and businesspeople is a recurring issue in China. It often turns out later that they were involved in investigations or other controversies.

Among the most high-profile cases in recent years is former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, who disappeared in 2018 while travelling back home in China. Two years later, a Chinese court sentenced him to a long prison term for accepting bribes. 

Qin had only been appointed foreign minister in March, after rising rapidly through the ranks under President Xi Jinping.

His last public meeting was with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko.

China cancelled a July 10 meeting of the minister with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Beijing at short notice. No reason was given.

Qin also did not attend talks with his counterparts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with Wang travelling to the meeting instead.

Likewise, Wang stepped in at this week's BRICS meeting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Johannesburg.

Qin was ambassador to Washington before his appointment as foreign minister. Prior to that, he was vice foreign minister and chief of protocol for Xi from 2014 to 2017.

He has been considered a nationalist hardliner, but appeared to soften his approach once he became ambassador to the United States.

Photo: MIA archive