by: Ch. Muhammad Natiq
Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first public appearance since returning to the country from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, refuting rumours of a coup and infighting which are not unusual ahead of sensitive party meetings.
Political experts said that there is nothing more to read into his brief absence other than the mandatory quarantine required for people returning to the country from abroad under Covid 19 pandemic regulations. Chinese state television and the official Xinhua news agency showed Xi visiting an exhibition of the Communist Party accompanied by Premier Li Keqiang and other top leaders.
Experts claimed coup rumours are nothing but ‘wishful thinking’ emanating from Hong Kong and elsewhere. However, Xi’s absence ahead of the 20th Chinese Communist Party conclave that is slated to begin on October 16 where he is expected to be granted an unprecedented third term provided grist to the rumour mill. Around 2300 delegates from across the nation will attend the conclave to be held in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. The meeting that is held every five years is mostly closed to the public. Chinese leaders have in the past been absent for days to attend informal political meetings mainly at the beachside resort of Beidaihe each summer.
Every time before the conference there has been a crackdown on corrupt officials and this time too there have been arrests and convictions. Ever since he came to power in 2012, Xi has undertaken a drive to root out corruption from the country. Reports suggest that Xi getting a third term and perhaps for life has led to discontent within a section of the party. Since the death of Mao, Chinese presidents have strictly followed a 10-year tenure.
In a break from recent tradition that limited leaders to two terms, reports suggest that Xi would get a third term and perhaps for life, this has led to discontent within a section of the party. Since the death of Mao, Chinese presidents have strictly followed a 10-year tenure.
How did the rumour of Xi’s ouster start?
According to media reports, the rumour began after a few social media accounts tweeted that prominent Chinese politicians had devised a plan to overthrow Xi Jinping while he was in Samarkand. The rumoured conspirators included former president Hu Jintao, former premier Wen Jiabao, and Politburo Standing Committee member Song Ping. The three politicians allegedly conspired to replace Xi as the chief of the Chinese Army.
As per the rumoured narrative, Xi learned about the conspiracy while he was in Uzbekistan and was placed under house arrest following his arrival on September 16. The rumours were further amplified by New Tang Dynasty TV, or NTDTV, a news media house backed by the neo-spiritual group Falun Gong, which is banned in China. NTDTV published an article claiming that Xi wasn’t present at the recently concluded national defence and military seminar.
Jennifer Zeng, the Chinese journalist who fled to New York, tweeted that about 60 per cent of the 16,602 flights scheduled on September 21 were cancelled without any reason. However, in her next tweet in the thread, Zeng mentioned that the cancellation of 9,583 flights could either be due to a military order or as a normal procedure due to the pandemic.