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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reported to have appeared in public

Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader whose unexplained absence from public view for more than a month raised intense speculation that he was ill or deposed, apparently has been seen.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Kim had given “field guidance” at a newly constructed scientific complex. The agency did not specify when Kim, 31, made the visit, but South Korean media speculated that it was on Monday.

Kim, the grandson of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, had not been spotted since Sept. 3, after having made a series of appearances.

In the opaque politics of North Korea, the world’s most isolated country, Kim’s prolonged absence inevitably invited rumors that he had been replaced in a power struggle or was ill, or both.

The last time he was seen, in a television broadcast in late September, Kim walked with a pronounced limp, and North Korea’s state-run press said he was not feeling well.

Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

Hong Kong protesters reinforce barriers

HONG KONG — Monday began with attempts to tear down the barriers around the protesters’ main camp. It ended with thousands of supporters of the protests swarming onto downtown streets and helping to erect stronger barriers.

Bankers, builders, engineers and smartly dressed office workers were among the surge of people who gathered deep into the night to keep the police from squeezing the student-led protests out of the three major areas of the city they have clogged for two weeks.

“This is to protect our democracy, to protect our future,” said Patrick Chan, an accountant, taking a brief break from helping to raise an elaborate fortress of bamboo and plastic binding on the edge of Central, the city’s main financial district.

Actions by the police and threats from opponents against the protesters have repeatedly backfired, making the pro-democracy demonstrators more determined to hold fast.

This time, police attempts to pare back protesters’ barricades brought out the supporters who built yet more barricades, using bamboo poles, garbage cans, concrete, bus-stop signs and even large potted plants and carpet scavenged from office renovations.

The police effort to remove some barricades in the Admiralty and Central areas of the city began before dawn on Monday, taking sleeping protesters by surprise.

The police cleared at least one important downtown artery but left the protest camp untouched.

Supporters of the pro-democracy protests regained the upper hand in the evening.

At Mong Kok, on the other side of Victoria Harbor, volunteers used crates and bamboo poles to reinforce their barriers.

Hong Kong police equipped with heavy steel shears began cutting plastic ties and dismantling barricades on Tuesday morning in one of the city’s busiest shopping areas, Causeway Bay, but there was little sign of resistance or arrests.

“This is not clearing the site; please leave for your own safety,” officers said through loudspeakers.

A police spokesman said some barricades needed to be removed because they had been enlarged overnight and made heavier with the use of cement.

“If there are ill or injured people, an ambulance might not be able to get through,” he said.

Many Hong Kong residents see the Chinese government’s rejection of democracy for their city as an affront to their values, and feel that the special status they have had since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 is under threat.

—Chris Buckley and Michael Forsythe, The New York Times