Chinese state media have mentioned leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping for the first time since he mysteriously disappeared from public life 12 days ago.
The official Guangxi Daily said Wednesday that Xi, currently vice president, joined other top leaders in expressing condolences to the family of a Communist Party official who died last week. The article did not provide any photographs or direct quotations of Xi, but said the condolences were sent "through various means."
Chinese officials have remained tight-lipped on the status of the 59-year-old, who is expected to be named the country's top leader at a crucial party meeting in just a matter of weeks.
In the past week, he has canceled meetings with four visiting foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Xi's absence has attracted global attention, but had been completely ignored by China's state media. The foreign ministry has also refused to answer reporters' questions on his condition.
The silence has led many to speculate that he suffered a health problem, such as a heart attack, stroke, or back injury. All of the rumors are unsubstantiated.
The absence comes at a sensitive time for Beijing leaders who are preparing to host the 18th Party Congress that will usher in a new generation of leaders.