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'Mystery' microblogger posting Party chief's photos stands out

(Shanghai Daily)

10:34, February 11, 2013

For weeks, a "mystery" microblogger who has been posting exclusive photographs of Xi Jinping has aroused the curiosity of the mainstream media with China Central Television's official microblog asking: "What's up? The Xue Xi Fans Club is reporting faster and closer than us."

The microblog account on called the "Xue Xi Fans Club" - a pun meaning fans of study and fans of Xi - has so far published 207 photos recording Xi's daily activities. By this noon, the account had attracted more than 750,000 followers.

The microblog refers to Xi as "Xi Dada," which means "Uncle Xi" in the Shaanxi dialect.

The microblogger previously told media that she is just a "normal office worker" who takes a keen interest in the Party chief's activities.

However, it turns out it's the brainchild of a male college dropout and migrant worker, Zhang Hongming, who told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that he is both a genuine fan of China's new leader and intent on making him more accessible to the country's people.

"It is just me. It's completely an individual act," said Zhang, who started the "Xue Xi Fans Club" on Sina Weibo on November 21 with a simple thought: Like other foreign leaders in these times, Chinese leaders should have an online following.

Zhang said he initially wanted to keep a low profile, but now wants to come forward to end the rampant speculation about his identity and intentions.

The account shares photos gathered from citizen volunteers and local reports throughout the country of Xi on his visits out in the field. The microblog even tracked Xi's recent trip to Gansu Province step by step, beating state media in reporting Xi's activities.

"Our leaders used to appear to be out of reach for the masses. They always appeared to be mysterious. Now the public can feel closer to their leader with timely and transparent information," Zhang told AP. "Xi is a national leader, but take his official title away, he's an ordinary person."

A native of the southwestern province of Sichuan, Zhang said he dropped out of a technical college in 2008 when he realized he was not learning anything. He moved to the more prosperous provinces in China's east and south, where he has worked many odd jobs, including delivery. He now helps produce wall decorations in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu Province, according to AP.

Tech-savvy, Zhang said he often visits foreign sites and came to realize that many foreign leaders have online followings. "We didn't have one for Xi, and I felt like I could do that. After all, I am filled with expectations that our new leader will be affable," said Zhang, who was contacted through the password-protected private message function on his Weibo account that only he could reasonably have access to.

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