Since November, a Weibo-account strangely named "Study Xi Fan Group" has been revealing a lot about Chinese President Xi Jinping's life.
Way too much about his life to be normal, to be honest — especially for Chinese leaders who traditionally like to keep information about them in the public domain to a minimum.
In December, Keith B. Richburg of the Washington Post noticed that the site appeared to have some inside knowledge of Xi's life:
[The blog] accurately reported Xi’s travel plans, to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other southern cities, well before the news was reported on state-run CCTV television, and days before the official news agency Xinhua, which waited to make any mention of the trip until this week, when the visit was complete.
Richburg, who notes that the site refers to Xi by an affectionate nickname "Pingping", also points that rare early photographs of Xi and his family members have been published on the microblog.
This week Barbara Demick of the LA Times noted that the blog, which had been dead for weeks, was suddenly active again — giving a weirdly detailed account of an official trip to Gansu province. Demick translates the updates:
Feb. 3, 4:50 p.m.: Xi's plane landed in Lanzhou Airport
6:41 p.m.: Xi didn't want to eat the food at the hotel and wanted some cold noodles. But there were too many people at the noodle restaurant.
Feb. 4, 1:27 p.m.: Xi was running around all day from the village to the city. Even our young people can't handle something like this, not to mention a man getting close to his 60s. Uncle Xi, you need to take care of your health!
Some of the photos seem to suggest someone very close to Xi — literally — is involved. For example, this picture is taken from a few feet away:
The account currently has 547,297 followers, and speculation is so rife that whoever is behind the account had to issue a statement. Offbeat China translates:
“I’m just an ordinary netizen, an ordinary working class…I’m not a Party member, nor an official. I have absolutely nothing to do with Xi’s team. All information and pictures are from the Internet, some from local fans. Out of security concerns, I delayed some postings. I receive no special treatment. My posts get censored, too. There is no team behind me. As of now, I’m the only person who is managing this account.”
“I like Xi, and also have high expectations for the new leadership. I’m very sorry if [this Weibo] creates troubles for Xi due to the social environment. If Xi doesn’t want us fans to stay together in one Weibo account, I’m willing to delete the Weibo, and also happy to be silent supporter.”
Despite the statement, the speculation is growing that either the account is being run semi-officially by someone on Xi's team, or is maybe being used as a dry-run before Xi opens an account himself.
Business Insider used Weibo's chat function to message whoever was behind the account. Unexpectedly we received a reply.
He or she asked what we did. When we responded "writer" they responded "Oh, you Americans". When we asked what they did, they wrote (in all capitals and English) "WORKER".
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