The whereabouts of China's foreign minister, Qin Gang, has been a source of mystery both inside and outside Beijing. He has been out of the public eye for a month. Now, he has been ousted from his job without explanation from Chinese leaders.
Qin was last seen in public on June 25 in a meeting with counterparts from overseas. Officials at first said he was suffering from health problems before claiming that they had no other information to offer.
On Tuesday, the decision-making body of the National People's Congress elevated his predecessor, Wang Yi, to take over the post.
All mention of Qin from the foreign ministry's website has been scrubbed, and his profile page is blank. Qin formerly served as China's ambassador to the US and met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing on June 18.
US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said his absence will not derail efforts to forge closer ties with Beijing.
Patel said, "We will continue to engage with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other Chinese officials and we continue to believe that keeping lines of communication are incredibly important."
He added that decisions about leadership roles in China are an internal matter.
Qin was said to be one of President Xi Jinping's most trusted officials. However, rumors have been swirling about his personal life, and some observers suspect that the accusations were planted by rivals.
Korogi Ichiro, a professor at Kanda University of International Studies said, "Qin had a quick rise to the position of foreign minister, and his appointment over more experienced candidates may have caused some jealousy."
Korogi also said that the episode highlights a lack of transparency in Chinese politics and adds to the uncertainty gripping leaders in Beijing.