Publication of three major government-run newspapers was delayed by eight hours yesterday to ensure that coverage of two highlights of President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States could be included. The People's Daily, the China Economic Daily and the PLA Daily were delayed to include reports of Hu's joint press conference with US President Barack Obama, as well as a joint Sino-US statement, a People's Daily employee confirmed yesterday. The statement was issued in the early hours of yesterday morning Beijing time. Although occasionally the printing presses of the major official mouthpieces are held to wait for reports of important events, such as overseas visits by Hu, or even the annual plenum of National People's Congress, such a long delay was unheard of in recent years, according to media experts and journalists. All reports about important overseas visits by state leaders are carefully vetted by the party's propaganda authorities. Song Shinan, a media analyst based in Sichuan, said he believed the papers may have been ordered to wait for the reports from the US because Hu's trip might well be his last to the US as president. Analysts said Hu was eager to cement his legacy in China's diplomatic history with the US visit, while a joint press conference and the joint statement were regarded as tangible achievements. Hu is expected to hand over the presidency to Vice-President Xi Jinping in 2013. Three big pictures of Hu - one reviewing the troops, one shaking hands with Obama in the Oval Office and one hugging an American boy during a welcoming ceremony at the airport - were printed on the front page of the People's Daily yesterday - with a prominent headline 'Hu Jintao held talks with US President Obama'. The full text of Hu's speech on the South Lawn and the full text of the Sino-US statement were published on page two. Despite prominent coverage, the state media was careful to avoid sensitive topics. None of the mainland television channels broadcast clips of Hu's remarks on human rights during the joint press conference, in which Hu publicly admitted that 'a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights'. Mainland audiences, except those who know how to scale the mainland's internet firewall, were unable to see Hu face repeated questions by American reporters on China's human rights, which Hu said he had not answered at first because of a technical glitch in translation. Most mainland newspapers carried only Xinhua reports about Hu's visit - a long-standing practice for coverage of sensitive events, including important overseas trips by state leaders. The reports played up the fact that Hu was given the highest level of reception in the US and praise for the visit from the foreign media. They also detailed business deals with the US worth US$45 billion. The Xinhua Daily Telegraph published a full-page story headlined 'the whole world is looking forward to another handshake between China and the US'. Despite the carefully managed publicity, intended to emphasise the rise of China to the domestic audience, a joke widely circulated on the internet illustrated a sentiment widespread on the mainland. It suggested Hu paid the bill for the state banquet when Obama excused himself to visit the toilet. Jiao Guobiao, a former journalism professor at Peking University, said such a long delay in publication was extremely rare and described the decision as a joke. 'No matter how important the event is, the newspaper shouldn't be a servant to power,' he said.