, BEIJING, Sep 15 – China’s Vice President Xi Jinping has made his first public appearance in two weeks, state media said Saturday, following swirling speculation about the whereabouts of Beijing’s leader-in-waiting.
Xi had not been seen in public since September 1 and cancelled meetings with four foreign dignitaries including visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, giving rise to intense speculation about his health.
The vice president arrived at China Agricultural University in Beijing on Saturday morning for “activities marking this year’s National Science Popularisation Day”, Xinhua said.
Two pictures released by the state-run news agency showed a relaxed Xi speaking to a group of men at the university. They were also posted on the government website, and were carried by several domestic online news portals.
China’s tightly controlled state-run media has ignored Xi’s disappearance from public view, focusing instead on a row over Japan’s purchase of the disputed Diaoyu islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku islands.
News broadcasts up to the 11am (0300 GMT) bulletin on the state-run China Central Television on Saturday made no mention of Xi’s public appearance.
His unexplained disappearance came at a highly sensitive time for China, which is gearing up for a generational handover of power.
On Thursday, he made his first public communication in nearly two weeks when state media said he had “expressed condolences on the death of old party comrade Huang Rong”, who died on September 6 — a day after Xi missed a planned meeting with Clinton.
The report in the Guangxi Daily newspaper – mouthpiece of the Communist Party committee in China’s southern Guangxi region – marked the first public communication by Xi since he delivered a speech on September 1.