New rumours about health problems facing China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping swirled Thursday as the government continued to stonewall on commenting on his condition or whereabouts 12 days after he dropped from sight.
China's vice president, Xi is due to take over as Communist Party head later this year and as president next year as the country transitions to a new generation of leaders. His prolonged and unexplained disappearance has sparked rumours and raised questions about the stability of the succession process.
For a fourth consecutive day, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei refused to offer any information on Xi.
Early rumours said Xi, 59, threw his back out swimming or pulled a muscle playing football. As the days passed, the speculation escalated to more serious conditions, including a heart attack, stroke, or emergency surgery.
And on Thursday, Hong Kong's Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said a small cancerous growth had been discovered on Xi's liver and that he had undergone surgery to remove it this week at the elite military 301 Hospital in Beijing. The centre said he was expected to reappear in public next week.
A man who answered the phone at the hospital's administrative office said he did not know whether Xi was being treated there. But he dismissed reports on Xi as guesswork.