Ailing leader steals limelight
Shi Jiangtao in Beijing
The limelight at the opening of the annual NPC session, which usually features Premier Wen Jiabao's government report, was stolen by his ailing deputy, Huang Ju .
The appearance of Vice-Premier Huang, the first in months, was apparently aimed at easing mounting speculation over the Politburo member's health and declining political influence.
Alongside the other eight Politburo members, Mr Huang, 69, the mainland's sixth-ranked leader, who has been suffering from cancer since last year, walked unsteadily on to the podium at the Great Hall of the People.
Mr Huang appeared to enjoy his brief return to the limelight during Mr Wen's two-hour address. He even smiled to state television cameras, while most of his party comrades appeared to be studying Mr Wen's report.
Rumours have been rife that Mr Huang will retire from his top posts due to ailing health.