China’s disappeared, from Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang to tennis star Peng Shuai

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China and the world have been embroiled in a guessing game over the disappearance of the Chinese Foreign Minister, all of whom have only one question to ask, “Where is Qin Gang?” 57-year-old Gang has been missing from public view without explanation for nearly three weeks now. 

China’s silence on his whereabouts has only fueled speculations about what happened to the top Chinese diplomat and a close aide of Premier Xi Jinping. 

 On July 17, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Nnig was asked about Gang’s whereabouts, to which she said she had no information.

 

Why is this a big deal? 

With China’s highly opaque political and law system, any disappearance of high-profile persons is often a sign of trouble. There have several cases where billionaires, celebrities, political and military officials and critics have vanished from public view, often after criticising the government or a scandal. 

Some of them have either reappeared after lengthy disappearances without any explanation or were straight-up produced in court to be sentenced to several years behind the bar. However, the disappearance could be a non-issue too. Chinese Premier Xi Jinping himself vanished for two weeks right before becoming China’s leader in 2012.

What is known about Qin Gang’s disappearance? 

It isn’t known whether Qin Gang is out of public view for mundane reasons or if there is something going on. But there are several rumours suggesting that all may not be well. 

  • There are rumours going around that Qin has been engaging in an extramarital affair with a Hong Kong-based journalist. 

  • Whether he’s fallen out of favour with Xi Jinping or not isn’t known yet. Personal rivalries and political infighting could also be reasons for his disappearance if not corruption. 
  • Qin Gang was last seen publicly on June 25 meeting officials from Russia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. 
  • He was later scheduled to attend meetings with US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen and the then US Special Rep on Climate Change John Kerry in Beijing, but was missing. 
  • He was also scheduled to attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, but the Chinese government said he wouldn’t attend due to health reasons.
  • Instead, Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission, has been attending the meetings in the place of Qin Gang. 
  • It is also being reported that China has postponed high-profile visits by EU officials without any reason. The officials were set to meet Qin Gang. 

Who is Qin Gang?

  • It has been only about six months since Qin Gang was elevated to the position of Chinese Foreign Minister from being the Chinese ambassador to the US. 

  • Qin was reportedly hand-picked by Xi Jinping for the position. He’s said to have made an impression on Xi while organising his overseas tours. 
  • Qin Gang is the youngest appointee to the post of Chinese Foreign Minister and his rise was no less than meteoric. He had also been tipped to take over from Wang Yi in the future. 
  • Qin Gang is said to have stood out as a tough-talking diplomat amid China’s “wolf warrior” style of diplomacy.   
  • He’s also credited with handling the US spy balloon controversy and even getting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Beijing. 

[ALSO READ: China apparently has ‘secret police stations’ in cities from New York to Tokyo. Why, what?]

Other high-profile disappearances in China

Qin Gang’s longest absence earlier was just about eight days during the Lunar New Year holiday. He is also not the only high-profile Chinese individual to have disappeared without trace or explanation. Here are others:

  • Jack Ma: While the e-commerce billionaire has returned to public view, and is now reportedly living in Tokyo, his disappearance in November 2020 was the most popular one. His disappearance came shortly after he criticised Chinese regulators. Since then, he’s lost his company Alibaba, and also nearly half of his wealth.
  • Peng Shuai: The last high-profile disappearance was that of Chinese Tennis star Peng Shuai in 2022 after she accused former CCP official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Now, she’s said to be living in China, but lying low. 
  • Ren Zhiqiang: Real estate tycoon went missing after he called Xi Jinping a clown in 2020 over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the same year, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption.

There have been cases where China reportedly abducted foreign nationals from other countries and imprisoned them for criticising the government. Celebs such as Zhao Wei’s existence on social media have been wiped out after falling out of favour with the government. 

[ALSO READ: Xi Jinping gets historic third term: How the Chinese President became so powerful]



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