By Samuel Burke
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president-in-waiting, mysteriously disappeared for two weeks because of a back injury suffered while swimming, according to Tung Chee Hwa, the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
“He hurt himself in sport and he’s now recovered and he’s now back at work,” Tung said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Tuesday.
Tung says he considered the media coverage to be mere speculation.
“In China the health of senior leaders is not a public issue. I suppose as time goes on, as China becomes more and more open and is also a part of the world, all these things will eventually change,” Tung said.
Tung became the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong after the handover of control to China from the U.K. He now serves as chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and has a close relationship with the highest levels of Chinese leadership.
Amanpour asked Tung if Xi would still be the next leader of China, as expected.
“I have no doubt whatsoever,” Tung said, adding that he believes the leadership contest will happen sometime in October.
Tung also said that current Chinese President Hu Jintao will most likely maintain leadership of the military after Xi becomes president.
“I’m not privy to this information - based on past practice he will retain the position for some time.’
Inside China this week, as the two countries face off over disputed islands in the East China Sea, protests continue to flare on today’s 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China.
Tung told Amanpour that the United States has an important role to help resolve the issue, saying he believes the United States has always been, and continues to be, a Pacific power.
“I think a nudge toward Japan by America would help a great deal. It is important. I hope cooler heads will prevail…. The Chinese leadership is saying very clearly, this has got to stop, come back to the table and see how we can work it through.”
Amanpour pushed Tung on whether he believed the issue would be resolved without further escalation, but Tung was reluctant to answer.
“I hope cooler heads will prevail,” Tung said again.