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China vice-premier back in public eye after illness

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, June 5 (Reuters) China's state media has said that Vice-Premier Huang Ju, previously reported to be ill with pancreatic cancer, made an official appearance today, the first since he left public view earlier this year.

Huang, 67, is ranked sixth in the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo and is an ally of former party chief Jiang Zemin. His illness sparked rumours of his impending retirement and jostling over his replacement.

But today, Huang attended a gathering of top Chinese scientists in Beijing alongside the other eight Standing Committee members, Xinhua news agency said, apparently flagging his improved health.

The government has insisted Huang is recovering well, and state media has reported his written statements from time to time.

But Huang has not attended any publicly reported events since mid-January and has been absent from Politburo and cabinet meetings due to his illness.

Analysts have said how Huang's replacement is handled -- or whether he is replaced at all -- could be a barometer of the degree to which Jiang's shadow hangs over successor Hu Jintao, who is still trying to consolidate power nearly four years after taking the top job.

REUTERS SI VC0950

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