BEIJING, Sept 13 (Reuters) - China has issued its first public communication from president-in-waiting Xi Jinping since his unexplained disappearance from the public eye ignited rumours over his health last week.
Xi, who has skipped meetings with visiting leaders and senior officials over the past week, was cited by state media late on Wednesday night as expressing condolences to the family of a veteran Communist Party official who died last week.
But Beijing has still not issued a statement directly responding to rumours over the 59-year-old’s health, which have included a bad back and heart trouble.
Xi, expected to be named as the party’s new boss next month and take up the reins as president in March, was last known to have appeared in public on Sept. 1, but speculation only took off last week when he skipped meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singapore’s prime minister.
This week, a pre-arranged photo opportunity between Xi and the Danish prime minister never happened.
Sources close to the Chinese leadership have said that Xi is suffering from a minor ailment, possibly a back injury suffered while swimming.
The China News service, in a report posted on its Web site late on Wednesday, said Xi and other top Chinese leaders had offered their sympathies to the family of Huang Rong, a retired official from southern Guangxi region who died on Sept. 6 - the day after Xi missed his meeting with Clinton.
Senior officials including President Hu Jintao and Xi, “expressed their grief and heartfelt sympathies through various means to the relative of Huang Rong”, the China News service said. It did not directly quote Xi.
China’s Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the status and whereabouts of Xi.