Xi Jinping

President Xi Jinping braves smog in surprise visit to popular Beijing tourist zone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 12:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 6:18pm

President Xi Jinping has been photographed walking along one of Beijing’s most well-known streets, two months after his last surprise appearance turned a steamed bun restaurant into a tourism attraction.

Xi earned praise among internet users for taking the stroll as air pollution had reached hazardous levels on Tuesday. The level of PM2.5 pollutants - microscopic particles considered the most dangerous to people’s health - reached 432 micrograms per cubic metre as of 12pm, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Centre.

Watch: Xi Jinping visits a popular Beijing tourist zone

“Breathing together, sharing a common fate,” The Beijing News quipped in a weibo post.

Xi visited two courtyards in the Yuer Hutong and asked residents about their living conditions, the Legal Evening News said in a weibo post. Xi asked the residents if they wanted a photo taken with him, the Beijing News said.

The visit did not appear to be spontaneous. At least two television cameras were seen filming the stroll.

Beijing’s Communist Party Secretary Guo Jinlong and Mayor Wang Anshun were also photographed accompanying the president.

A weibo user who identified himself as “Guoan low-key brother,” a reference to the capital’s soccer club, posted a first series of photos of Xi strolling near Nanluoguxiang on Tuesday morning. Later in the day, photos and videos taken by mobile phones circulated on the usually censored Sina Weibo microblogging platform.

The area, just south of the capital’s drum and bell towers, is a popular area for evening strolls and hosts dozens of restaurants with traditional street snacks as well as smaller shops selling artisanal products.

“Will he make stinky tofu or double-layered milk custard famous this time?” a Sina Weibo user quipped, referring to Xi’s last surprise appearance at a Qingfeng steamed bun shop in December. Tourists have queued up daily at the shop and other restaurants have even turned to offering “presidential menus” mimicking Xi’s lunch of steamed buns.

Chen Heng, the owner of Chen’s Small Intestine Restaurant, complained in a weibo post that several days earlier “various law enforcement agencies began checking [the street] like mad dogs”.

“Just for this one [short] moment,” he wrote.