BEIJING has voiced doubts on whether Deng Xiaoping will make a television appearance at Lunar New Year, signalling the possibility of the first no-show by the country's paramount leader since his retirement. 'We cannot really predict whether he will come out there on the screen at the time of the Spring Festival,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said yesterday. Mr Shen stressed, however, that the 90-year-old leader was in good health, despite a recent spate of rumours that he was dead or dying. 'Comrade Deng Xiaoping's health is in a good condition,' he said. Mr Deng's non-appearance at Lunar New Year, which this year falls on January 31, would have far-reaching implications, confirming that he is too weak to be seen in public and, by implication, too weak to maintain his influence on affairs of state. The patriarch has appeared at every Lunar New Year festival since 1990. Informed sources in Beijing said yesterday Mr Deng was still in the capital and that his private doctors were deliberating over whether he should make the trip to Shanghai. They said while Mr Deng had almost lost all ability to walk, his life was not in danger. Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding the New Helmsman has deepened following the strange circumstances of the publication of his latest photo. Shanghai's Liberation Daily was the only paper in China yesterday that ran the picture of the patriarch watching fireworks in the Zhongnanhai party headquarters last October 1. Since the Shanghai paper is often known as the mouthpiece of the Deng family, analysts have expressed doubts about the Deng household's control over the Beijing and national media. The photo was released on Wednesday by the semi-official China News Service, whose dispatches and photos are usually used by Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas subscribers. In Beijing, the official People's Daily declined to explain why it did not run the photo. 'We have no comment to make on this subject,' an editorial official said. In general, all news about Mr Deng is handled by the party propaganda department. But an official at Liberation Daily said the latest photo 'was not the subject of a directive'. 'We only thought it was interesting material and we alone decided to publish it. 'All the major Chinese newspapers, particularly those in Beijing, should in principle have been aware of it,' he said. 'Maybe they do not have the same news perspective as we do.' Another staff member at the Daily said he was not sure whether Mr Deng had arrived in Shanghai.