Social media has been abuzz with rumours since Saturday that Chinese president Xi Jinping has been deposed in a coup that began unfolding while he was away in Uzbekistan attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit.
Some Twitter posts claimed that Xi was placed under house arrest as soon as he landed in Beijing on September 16. Several Chinese nationals on Twitter claimed that the People’s Liberation Army had taken control and others speculated that General Li Qiaoming has been made the new President of China
Other tweets claimed that Beijing airport had cancelled 6,000 international and domestic flights, and that high-speed train ticket sales had also been stopped.
Some social media posts suggested that the Chinese premier could be in quarantine following the country’s strict ‘Zero Covid Policy’.
In China, every person who returns to the country from abroad has to undergo a quarantine.
There has been no corroborative reporting from any reputed international news outlet, and the Chinese foreign ministry has also been silent.
However, on Sunday, the China’s Communist Party said it had elected all the delegates attending a key political meeting starting October 16, where President Xi Jinping is expected secure an unprecedented third term.
Seeking a 3rd term
The rumours of a coup and house arrest come ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress on October 16 where Xi is expected to secure power for an unprecedented third term of five years.
Speculation may also have been triggered as two former ministers were sentenced to death and four officials were sent to life in jail this week in China. According to reports, the six were part of a ‘political faction’. Currently, the Communist Party is running an anti-corruption campaign across the country and it is believed that the six were opponents of Xi Jinping. The news of Jinping’s house arrest is believed to have been started and spread by the anti-Xi lobby.
Ten things to know about Xi Jinping
- He became president of China in 2012, ushering in an era of increased assertiveness and authoritarianism.
- In 2018, the National People’s Congress approved the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power for life.
- He has been front and centre of China’s push to cement its position as a superpower, while also launching crackdowns on corruption and dissent.
- He has carefully cultivated an enigmatic strongman image, and has rapidly consolidated power. He has had his ideas mentioned by name in the constitution – an honour that had been reserved only for Mao Zedong till now.
- The “Xi Jinping Thought” means that any challenge to the president will now be seen as a threat to Communist Party rule.
- Xi was in Beijing in 1953. He is the son of revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party’s founding fathers and a vice-premier. Because of his illustrious roots, Xi is seen as a “princeling” – a child of elite senior officials who has risen up the ranks. But his family’s fortunes took a dramatic turn when his father was purged in 1962 prior to the Cultural Revolution and imprisoned.
- At the age of 15, Xi was sent to the countryside for “re-education” and hard labour in the remote and poor village of Liangjiahe for seven years.
- He joined the Communist Party in 1974. He worked hard to rise to the top – first as a local party secretary in Hebei province, before moving on to more senior roles.
- His increasing profile in the party propelled him to its top decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and in 2012 he was picked as president.
- The Tsinghua University chemical engineering graduate is married to the glamorous singer Peng Liyuan, and the two have been heavily featured in state media as China’s First Couple. It’s a contrast from previous presidential couples, where the first lady has traditionally kept a lower profile. They have one daughter, Xi Mingze, but not much is known about her apart from the fact that she studied at Harvard University.
Under Xi’s rule, China has become more assertive on the global stage, from its continued forcefulness in the South China Sea despite international protestations, to its exercise of soft power by pumping billions of dollars into Asian and African investments.
Xi has also vigorously pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his China Dream vision.
China has enacted economic reform to combat slowing growth, such as cutting down bloated state-owned industries and reducing pollution, as well as its One Belt One Road trade project.
All this has been accompanied by a resurgence in patriotic nationalism whipped up by state media, with a particular focus on Xi as China’s strongman, leading some to accuse him of developing a personality cult like that of Mao.
Many experts believe that the anti-corruption campaign in China has been used by Xi to root out opponents and is part of a series of political manoeuvres by him to consolidate power.
China has seen increasing clampdowns on freedoms, from rising online censorship to arrests of dissidents and human rights lawyers, leading some to describe Xi as “the most authoritarian leader since Chairman Mao”.
A number of countries such as the US and UK have also accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its repression of the Uyghurs.
In Xinjiang province, human rights groups believe the government has detained more than a million Muslim Uyghurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education” camps. There is also evidence of Uyghurs being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised.
(With inputs from agencies)