Xi Jinping makes 'surprise' visit to popular Beijing tourist zone

By Stefan Van Assche, February 26, 2014

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Chinese President Xi Jinping took a stroll along Nanluoguxiang, one of Beijing's most well known streets, on Tuesday. The visit did not seem to be spontaneous, as there were at least two television cameras filming the walk. Beijing Communist Party Secretary Guo Jinlong and Mayor Wang Anshun were also photographed accompanying the president.

Two months after his last surprise appearance turned a regular steamed bun restaurant into a tourism attraction and prompted the joint to create a "Presidential Set Meal", Xi visited two courtyards in the Yuer Hutong. He asked locals about their living conditions and if they wanted a photo taken with him, according to media outlets.

The president earned praise from internet users for taking the stroll on Tuesday, as air pollution in Beijing is currently at dangerous levels. The level of PM2.5 particles in the air reached 432 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Centre. 25 micrograms per cubic meter is the level considered safe by the WHO.

“Breathing together, sharing a common fate,” The Beijing News quipped in a Weibo post.

The area is a popular spot for evening strolls and houses dozens of restaurants with traditional street snacks and smaller shops selling artisanal products. "Will he make stinky tofu or double-layered milk custard famous this time?" one Weibo user asked.

The stroll was not all fun and games, however. Chen Heng, the owner of Chen’s Small Intestine Restaurant, complained in a blog post that several days earlier "various law enforcement agencies began checking [the street] like mad dogs. Just for this one moment."

[Image via Weibo]

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