The 79-year-old Hu Jintao’s departure was left unexplained as he seemed reluctant to leave while seated next to President Xi Jinping.
Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was unexpectedly led out of Saturday’s closing ceremony of the Communist Party Congress in a dramatic moment that disrupted the highly choreographed event.
No official comment about Hu’s removal was given as the nation’s censors appeared to quickly scrub any recent references to him from the internet.
The frail-looking 79-year-old seemed reluctant to leave the front row of proceedings at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where he was sitting next to President Xi Jinping.
A steward attempted to take a sitting Hu by the arm before being shaken off. The steward then attempted to lift Hu with both hands from under the armpits.
After an exchange of about a minute, in which Hu spoke briefly with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, he was led out of the hall.
A seated Xi was filmed holding papers down on the desk as Hu tried to grab them.
Hu patted Li’s shoulder as he left, as most of his colleagues stared firmly ahead.
The week-long congress occurred mostly behind closed doors, but Hu’s departure occurred shortly after journalists were allowed in to cover the closing ceremony.
Early drama: Hu Jintao seen being led out soon after reporters are led into the main hall pic.twitter.com/pRffGZF60I
— Danson Cheong (@dansoncj) October 22, 2022
Authorities offered no explanation for Hu’s exit, which came just before the 2,300 delegates at the congress voted unanimously to endorse Xi’s “core” leadership position.
“We still don’t know what caused Hu’s actions, such as whether it was opposition to Xi’s power or simply an unfortunately timed senior moment,” said Neil Thomas, a senior China analyst at the Eurasia Group consultancy, according to AFP news agency.
“So without more information, it’s hard to draw solid conclusions about how this incident relates to Chinese politics.”
Search results for “Hu Jintao” on the Twitter-like Weibo platform appeared to be heavily censored on Saturday afternoon, with the most recent result dated Friday and posts limited to those of official accounts.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the nation’s number two official was among four of the seven members of the nation’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee who will not be reappointed in a leadership shuffle on Sunday.
Li and three others were missing from the ruling Communist Party’s new 205-member Central Committee that was approved at the closing session of a weeklong party congress, which set the leadership and agenda for the next five years.
Only Central Committee members can serve on the Standing Committee.
Xi is all but assured of being formally announced on Sunday as the party’s general secretary for another five years, also allowing him to become president for a third straight time.
Since taking over from Hu 10 years ago, Xi has become China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong.
Xi has crushed the opposition to his rule inside the party, with many of his rivals jailed on corruption charges, and he has shown no tolerance for any form of public dissent.