US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Beijing on Wednesday without meeting Xi Jinping, China’s leader-in-waiting.
According to the AFP, an unnamed US official said Chinese authorities notified the US late Tuesday evening that the Wednesday meeting would not happen. The official said Xi had also cancelled meetings with Singapore’s Prime Minister and with Russian diplomats.
A US official told the Wall Street Journal that the last-minute cancellation was because Xi Jinping hurt his back. Other reports say he had a scheduling conflict—despite Xinhua news having reported the night before that Clinton was on Xi’s meeting schedule.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei Tweeted that Beijing’s Number 301 Military Hospital is under martial law. This hospital is where senior Chinese leaders go to get medical treatment.
In the absence of an official explanation, China’s internet is rife with speculation. And internet police are curbing discussions on the topic. Searches for the name “Xi Jinping” now turn up limited results on Sina Weibo—China’s Twitter-like microblog service. The same goes for the term “meeting cancelled.”
Senior China analyst Heng He told NTD earlier today that it’s unlikely the cancellation was made to embarrass Hillary Clinton—in part because Xi Jinping canceled other meetings too. Heng He says only a serious health problem or an urgent political crisis would prompt Xi to suddenly cancel the meetings.
When asked about the cancellation at a regular press briefing on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Minister told reporters that all meetings had been pre-arranged and that he hoped people would not, quote, “speculate unnecessarily.”
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