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BEIJING — China’s next designated leader, Xi Jinping, reappeared in public on Saturday, two weeks after mysteriously disappearing from view. |
Mr. Xi, 59, was shown in photographs, posted on the Web site of the official Xinhua news agency, as he walked through the campus of China Agriculture University in Beijing for National Science Popularization Day. One of the photographs was accompanied by a brief caption saying that he would attend activities at the university on Saturday.
Mr. Xi, whose health had been called into question, looked fit, dressed in dark slacks, an open-collar white dress shirt and a dark jacket — the unofficial uniform of Communist Party officials out on inspection. He was flanked by several other officials in similar clothing.
It was the first time that Mr. Xi had been seen in public since he gave a speech on Sept. 1 to students at a party indoctrination school that he runs. Since then, he had canceled at least two meetings with foreign dignitaries and was conspicuously absent from evening newscasts or party-run newspapers, which usually give detailed accounts of the activities of top leaders. The report on Saturday did not mention any of this, part of a policy of not commenting on the health of leaders. Over the past week, government spokespeople have consistently refused to address the issue.
His absence set off discussion among Chinese and foreign observers about his fate. When he failed to meet Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 10 days ago, diplomats were told he had a bad back. Variations of this story soon circulated, including that he had slipped at a swimming pool.
But Chinese observers with ties to the leadership began to hear that his condition was more serious. One rumor had it that he had suffered a mild heart attack, or a stroke, and was undergoing physical therapy. Saturday’s photograph showed no evidence of facial paralysis, with Mr. Xi’s lips pursed in his customary fashion and his eyes alert. Like most Chinese leaders, his hair appeared dyed and was slicked back.
Other not necessarily contradictory versions seeking to explain his absence said that he was in political difficulty after a contentious meeting of senior leaders at a resort in August.
Mr. Xi is expected to take over as head of the Communist Party at an important congress, held just once every five years. He is to take over from the departing party secretary, Hu Jintao, part of a broad transition of power affecting almost all senior positions in the party and government.
From: The New York Times