Colors: Blue Color

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Tokyo -- It was China's most important political event of the year, but the man in the spotlight looked exhausted.

     Chinese President Xi Jinping, his eyelids swollen, wore a weary expression as he attended the annual session of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

     "He looked absent-minded, like he was thinking about something else important," said one of the delegates to the event, held in Beijing from early March.

     The seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party's top decision-making body, were front and center during the two-week session, giving foreign journalists and others in Beijing a rare chance to observe them up close.

     The seven members include Premier Li Keqiang and Wang Qishan, who is in charge of disciplinary affairs, as well as Xi, who serves concurrently as the Communist Party's general secretary.

A close eye

In addition to the tired look on Xi's face, a strange scene, repeated later during the political extravaganza, also drew much attention.

     As a female staff member carried a cup of tea to the president's seat just before he sat down, two male guards in black suits could be seen watching her carefully from either side.    

     This year's session of the National People's Congress, the country's parliament, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, its top political advisory body, marked the first time that such guards were so prominent.

     "Their role is to always monitor (female staff members serving tea) to prevent them from poisoning (Xi)," said a source familiar with the matter in Beijing. "They are well-trained, so they would even be able to cope with an assailant if one appeared."

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