China's Xi Jinping coughs repeatedly during live speech, sparking health concerns

Camera's cut away from the leader as he coughed on live TV.
Camera's cut away from the leader as he coughed on live TV. Photo credit: Getty

China's President Xi Jinping was caught repeatedly coughing while giving a live speech, sparking speculation about his health.

The Communist Party leader coughed four times in eight minutes while speaking in Shenzhen on Thursday.

China's state broadcaster cut away from the leader as he coughed on air - but caught Xi lifting a hand to his mouth.

While cameras cut away to show a masked audience, audio catches Xi spluttering and sipping on a glass of water to clear his throat.

In the second half of the 50-minute speech, Xi "frequently paused to drink water and coughed repeatedly," Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, reported.

The repeated cough has led to speculation on Twitter that the Chinese president may have contracted COVID-19.

"Does Xi have Covid? Makes me wonder?" one user said.

Another Twitter user alleged the video was Hong Kong propaganda.

"There are plenty of reasons for Xi to cough that do not indicate coronavirus, his throat may have been dry?" the user said.

The speculation comes amid allegations of cover-ups in China's COVID-19 numbers, officially reporting around a dozen cases everyday.

The speech marked the 40th anniversary of the former fishing village being declared the first place in China to allow free enterprise, Daily Mail reported.

The visit to Shenzhen is part of his tour of southern China, where Xi has been pictured meeting crowds of people without a mask - while maintaining a distance.