China State TV Pans Away From Xi Jinping Speech As Chinese Leader Repeatedly Coughs

China's state broadcaster panned away from a coughing Xi Jinping on a number of occasions as the Chinese leader struggled to finish his sentences in the final minutes of a speech given on Wednesday.

President Xi was seated onstage with other government officials including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, all of whom went maskless at the commemorative event in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong Province.

The 67-year-old spoke for 50 minutes, praising what he called the "miraculous" development of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone on the border with Hong Kong. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the hi-tech manufacturing hub's establishment in 1980.

However, those viewing Xi's remarks, which were aired live by state broadcaster CCTV, noticed the news channel panning away from the speaker on multiple occasions as he appeared to cough.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily, which ran the headline "Xi Jinping coughs and coughs at Shenzhen event as Carrie Lam stays away from VIPs," noted that the Chinese president "was seen coughing away and drinking water."

Its report noted that Xi could still be heard coughing despite the government-run television channel's efforts to air shots of the crowd instead of the president during the moments in question.

Media outlets across the Taiwan Strait also picked up on the phenomenon. A headline in Taiwan's Yahoo news claimed Xi was "coughing violently."

President Xi began coughing during the last seven minutes of his 6,300-word speech, including coughing four times in three minutes, Taiwan's commercial TV station TVBS reported.

In mainland China, CCTV news reports about the Chinese leader's speech failed to include any video or audio segments of his coughs.

Related searches on Chinese social media sites, such as the country's Twitter-like service Weibo, have turned up no results.

Xi Jinping China
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a crowd at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in Guangdong, China, on October 14, 2020. CCTV

Shenzhen future

President Xi lavished praise on Shenzhen during his remarks and vowed to grant the city more autonomy to develop in the future.

He cited Shenzhen as the key to integrating the Chinese mainland with economic activities in Hong Kong, and urged residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to invest in its future.

With Hong Kong's recent troubles and its GDP having been surpassed by Shenzhen in 2018, the Chinese Communist Party is expected to shift its focus towards the hub, which is home to tech giants such as Huawei and Tencent.

War talk

In what is his third visit to Guangdong since becoming leader, Xi also toured the People's Liberation Army Marine Corps headquarters in Chaozhou.

In a speech addressing military leaders, Xi praised the marines as China's "elite force for amphibious operations," and urged his troops to focus their minds and energy on "preparing for war" amid ongoing live-fire drills by both Beijing and Taipei.