Chinese vice president Xi Jinping appeared in public for the first time since his mysterious absence amid the approaching once-in-a-decade leadership transition, Financial Times reports.

State-run Xinhua News Agency published two photographs of the president-in-waiting while he was at an event marking the National Science Popularisation Day at China Agricultural University in Beijing. The pictures depicts a casual day for Mr. Xi among students and other officials in an attempt to put a blanket of normalcy over speculation that the leader is seriously ill or experiencing a “power struggle”.

Mr. Xi had reportedly cancelled several high-level meetings, including a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The foreign ministry, however, denied reports that Mr. Xi was scheduled for a meeting with Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Beijing remains tight lipped over the matter, seemingly to ward off suspicions that could threaten to disrupt the government’s stable facade ahead of the 18th Communist Party Congress expected to take place in mid-October. Still, some remain cynical of Mr. Xi’s comeback and questioned whether the pictures were recent. According to reports, the government blocked internet searches for Mr. Xi’s name.