On 11 July 2023, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced that Qin would not be attending the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings held in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 13 and 14 July due to health reasons. Instead, he was represented by his predecessor Wang Yi, who is serving as the director of the Office of the CCP's Central Foreign Affairs Commission, the top diplomatic post in China at the meetings. Qin has not been seen in public since 25 June 2023 – when he held talks with counterparts from Russia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka – and did not meet visiting dignitaries including United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in July. His non-availability was one of the reasons for the cancellation of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union Josep Borrell's visit to China in July.
Speculation around Qin's disappearance centered on an alleged affair with Hong Kong reporter Fu Xiaotian, who also seemed to disappear around the same time.
On 25 July 2023, Qin was removed from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs by a decree signed by president Xi Jinping, after a list of appointments and removals was passed by the 14th National People's Congress Standing Committee. Qin's predecessor and the former foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, was re-appointed to the office. China's foreign ministry and official media agencies, including Xinhua News Agency, refused to explain Qin's dismissal. All mentions of Qin during his tenure as foreign minister were removed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, though they were restored the following day. With a tenure of 207 days, Qin is the shortest-serving foreign minister in the history of the People's Republic of China. As of September 2023, Qin continued to serve as a State Councillor.
According to a September 19, 2023 article by The Wall Street Journal, Qin had engaged in an extramarital relationship while serving as ambassador. The Journal cited two unnamed sources who stated that the relationship resulted in the birth of a child while in the United States. According to the Journal, Qin was cooperating with a Communist Party investigation focusing on whether the extramarital relationship or Qin's conduct had compromised Chinese national security.
Is there a historical precedent for an official in China being removed due to an extramarital affair? I couldn't find any similar case that happened like this in the past. Usually, they get removed over corruption charges, but this is the first time I hear an official get removed over an extramarital affair in China.