BEIJING — New rumors 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.
Official media mentioned Xi for the first time since his last appearance on Sept. 1, but the brief, obscure report failed to explain the extended absence that has sparked the rumors.
The reports said Xi, President Hu Jintao, and other top officials had expressed their condolences ‘‘through various means’’ for the death of 102-year-old former general Huang Rong last week. The Guangxi Daily newspaper reported no other details. Identical reports were carried on the websites of the Communist Party and the official Xinhua News Agency.
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 unexplained disappearance has sparked rumors 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 rumors 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 Center for Human Rights and Democracy said a small cancerous growth had been discovered on Xi’s liver on Sept. 2 and that he had undergone surgery to remove it. The center said he was expected to reappear in public next week.