BEIJING Chinese Internet users have been left scratching their heads after state media issued a bizarre report on Saturday denying a story about President Xi Jinping wearing a wedding ring during the G20 summit in Russia.
The official Xinhua news agency put out a one-line report stating: "Talk on the Internet about Xi Jinping wearing a wedding ring at the G20 summit is fake information." It provided no further explanation.
The denial comes as China embarks on yet another crackdown on what it terms "online rumors", as the control-obsessed government tries once again to rein in social media.
Xinhua's report appeared to stem from a lingering shot carried on state television earlier in the week of Xi's right hand, complete with the ring, which had been discussed on social media sites as an image of China's president wearing his wedding ring had apparently never been shown before.
Chinese do not commonly wear wedding rings, though the practice is catching on amongst the newly-affluent middle classes, especially in the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
Xi is married to the glamorous singer Peng Liyuan, who, unlike most previous Chinese first ladies, has taken a relatively high-profile public profile, including accompanying him on foreign trips, though not his current one.
State media has also carried glowing stories about how in love with each other they are, a departure from the usual practice of banning any public discussion on the private lives of top leaders.
All of which has added to the mystery of why Xinhua decided to put out its unusual report, and has generated fevered discussion online, albeit with many of the posts probably falling victim to stringent censorship.
"If he wears a ring or does not wear one, how is this affecting China's development or the international situation? Why does anyone care - who on earth doesn't know who his wife is?" wrote one user on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)