Taipei, Sept. 15 (CNA) China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping probably disappeared from public view for two weeks because he was too busy preparing for the forthcoming 18th National Congress of China's Communist Party, a Taiwanese scholar suggested Saturday.
Speaking after China's vice president reportedly resurfaced, Lin Chong-pin, a professor at Tamkang University and a former vice defense minister, cast doubt on speculation that Xi's lengthy absence was because he had fallen ill.
China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that Xi attended a public activity at China Agricultural University in Beijing the same day, his first public appearance since Sept. 1.
He had canceled a series of meetings with foreign dignitaries over the past two weeks, sparking wild speculation over his whereabouts, including rumors that he had suffered a mild heart attack or stroke.
Lin contended that the speculation was off base.
For one thing, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin had diabetes, and President Hu Jintao once suffered from acute mountain sickness, but neither disappeared from public view for long, meaning that even if Xi did have a health problem, it was probably not serious.
The more likely explanation for Xi's absence from view, Lin said, is that Xi has a heavy workload ahead of the party congress, including dealing with such thorny issues as China's economic slowdown, rampant corruption, and the scandal surrounding former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai.
Xi has to spend time consulting with faction leaders and military chiefs on these issues before the party congress, Lin said, because of their pressing nature.
Political reforms aimed at weeding out corruption by limiting the power of local officials and protecting the rights of the general public have already been on hold for too long, Lin said, and could not be delayed any further.
The Xinhua report of Xi's reappearance was accompanied by two photos showing him chatting pleasantly with others and showing no signs of health problems.
Many Chinese Internet users appeared to be relieved by the news, with more than 10,000 of them sending their wishes to Xi in online posts.
The Xinhua report did not offer any explanation, however, of why Xi was out of the public eye for so long, and Chinese authorities have remained quiet on the issue.
(By Chen Hung-chin and Maubo Chang)