26 September 2023

False: China’s foreign minister’s profile was online until he was sacked on July 25

Qin Gang’s profile on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website was accessible during a month-long disappearance but erased immediately after the abrupt dismissal.


[updated on July 27]

The ministerial profile of Qin Gang, one of China’s most senior diplomats, was erased online as he was removed after a month-long disappearance that sparked intense speculations.

Qin was reportedly last seen on June 25 and had since been missing from public view due to unspecific “health reasons”.

Various posts in Chinese claimed earlier this month that his profile photo was removed from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as early as mid-July.

However, Annie Lab found that the claim was not true then. As we wrote on July 19, we could confirm his profile page on the MFA website was accessible in six languages at that time.

It was removed on July 25 from the foreign minister section of the ministry’s website, the day state media Xinhua reported Qin was replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi as foreign minister.

The relevant pages, including ministerial remarks, events, photos and videos, now read “information update.”

The webpage introducing Qin on the MFA website has been changed to “updating.”

During a Wednesday regular press briefing, an MFA spokesperson said the information on the website was updated according to relevant administrative regulations. She said she had no further information when being asked about the reason for Qin’s removal.

The abrupt dismissal came after a decision made in a National People’s Congress standing committee meeting, Xinhua reported.

Qin was dismissed as China’s foreign affairs minister, but his other appointments, including state councilor and the party’s central committee, seemingly continue to remain.

His non-ministerial profile still exists on the government’s website as of this writing. He remains to be a state councilor, according to the page.

[The following part was published on July 19]

Various social media posts and Taiwan news media claimed this week that the profile photo of Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, had been taken down from the official website, implying that he could have been ousted lately.

At least two Taiwan-based media organizations, Newtalk and Liberty Times, published reports based on the claim that emerged as early as July 17. The same claim also spread to HKGolden, a popular Hong Kong online forum, and was reposted to Facebook by two local opinion leaders and Twitter, garnering around 2,000 likes and over 200 shares.

Qin, the second most senior diplomat after China’s foreign policy chief Wang Yi, has been missing from public view for over three weeks, which sparked intense speculations over his career.

A screenshot of MFA’s webpage listing its eight “principal officials” was used as evidence of his possible removal from the position in those claims because it does not include Qin’s photo.

However, this is not true. Qin’s photo is still available on the MFA website. His profile information is accessible in six different languages at the time of writing.

Qin’s speeches, events, photos and videos also remain viewable.

Qin Gang’s bio on the MFA website says he is the current foreign minister.

The “principal officials” page in question with eight names, including Qi Yu, the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Committee of the MFA, is a separate section. Qin’s leadership seems to have warranted a separate page from the rest of the principal officials.

In fact, Annie Lab also looked into historical records from the Internet Archive and found that Qin’s photo never appeared on the “principal official” page since he took the current role in December 2022.

Screenshot of the “principal officials” page

Qin, aged 57, was the ambassador of China to the United States before he became the foreign minister.

Qin met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing last month and was last publicly seen on June 25 for meeting officials from Russia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. He was absent from the foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesia at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last week.

A spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry told journalists that Qin could not attend the ASEAN event due to “health reasons.”

During an MFA regular press briefing on July 17, spokesperson Mao Ning said she had “no information to provide” when being repeatedly asked to comment on Qin’s absence from duty and a possible return date.

One of the two Taiwanese publications, Liberty Times, later deleted the news report mentioned in this article.