Rumours abound about the missing Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. The most prominent among them is that the 57-year-old Qin was having an affair with a prominent TV anchor Fu Xiaotian, who is suspected to be a double agent.

Phoenix Television is a Chinese state-owned broadcaster headquartered in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Anchor Fu Xiaotian is said to be an international celebrity feted by the Italian government and Cambridge University. According to Asia Sentinel 40-year-old Fu Xiaotian is alleged to have links to British intelligence.

On May 10, 2019, a garden was named after Fu Xiaotian at Churchill College, Cambridge University, where she previously studied. This was announced by the Chinese foreign ministry.

The ‘Asia Sentinel’ noted that it was unusual for an august British university like Cambridge to name a garden after a person unless that person was a major international figure. “China pulled the strings at Churchill College,” a professor told the website.

On June 12, 2017, Ettore Sequi, the Italian ambassador to China, awarded Fu the “Order of the Star of Italy” in Beijing. This prestigious award was given for her work with senior political figures and her promotion of strong links between Italy and China.

Commenting on this, Churchill College said: “Xiaotian has built a successful media career in China encouraging international cooperation and engagement as host of the Phoenix Television program Talk with World Leaders – featuring interviews with world political leaders, which has an audience of over 200 million people.”

Foreign Minister Qin was last seen in the media on June 25. When asked about his whereabouts or fate, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons have been evasive, asking questioners to see the ministry website. But the website has no update about Qin though he is still mentioned as Foreign Minister.

However, the London Times said that there are widespread rumours that Qin is currently under investigation for having an affair with Phoenix TV anchor Fu Xiaotian. The Times also reported that Fu and her baby son have also disappeared from public view.

Asked about this on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said, "I have no information to provide. China’s diplomatic activities are proceeding normally."

Radio Free Asia noted that the spokesperson’s answers were omitted from the official record of the briefing in the foreign ministry's website, further fuelling speculation.

Qin Gang was handpicked to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January this year though he was not in politics. He was a diplomat of 20 years standing and an Ambassador to the US.

He was a prominent “wolf warrior”, aggressively promoting the policies of Xi Jinping’s government.

Qin’s absence since June 26 was made all the more conspicuous by the flurry of diplomatic activity in the Chinese capital in recent weeks, including high-profile visits by senior US officials Janet Yellen and John Kerry.

Qin was supposed to meet European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier on July 5 in Beijing but the meeting was pushed back after China informed the EU that the dates were “no longer possible.”

Qin also failed to show up at an annual foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia last week. Instead, Wang Yi attended it.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told a regular news briefing last Tuesday that Qin could not attend the ASEAN meeting “because of health reasons.”

Media reports say that such sudden disappearances have become a common feature of Xi Jinping’s anti-vice, anti-adultery and anti-corruption campaign.

In 2014, the ‘Washington Post’ quoted the ‘China Daily’ saying that an anti-corruption watchdog was leading the "fight on adultery". The Chinese government was embarrassed by numerous public cases, as in China, adultery was synonymous with corruption.

Therefore, few people were surprised when Chinese state media announced that the disgraced railways boss Liu Zhijun had 18 mistresses, "including actresses, nurses and train stewards".

The Chongqing Beibei District Party Secretary Lei Zhengfu's 13-year sentence for corruption was preceded by a sex tape that became a grim Internet sensation, the ‘Washington Post’ said.