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Former Chinese president Hu Jintao is lead away by an usher at the closing ceremony of the Communist Party Congress in Beijing on Saturday
The dramatic scenes that saw Hu Jintao led away from the stage sparked speculation of political factors at playImage: picture alliance/dpa/kyodo
PoliticsChina

China defends call to remove ex-leader from Party congress

October 23, 2022

Chinese state media said former President Hu Jintao was escorted off the stage at the Communist Party congress as he was "not feeling well." Speculation is rife that he may have challenged Xi Jinping's power grab.

https://p.dw.com/p/4IZ0t

An unusual incident that saw former Chinese President Hu Jintao removed from the dais unexpectedly by ushers at the 20th Communist Party congress was due to the 79-year-old "not feeling well," Chinese state media said late Saturday.

What happened?

Hu Jintao, the predecessor of current President Xi Jinping, was unexpectedly escorted from the stage of the closing ceremony of the ruling Communist Party congress earlier Saturday.

At one point, the frail-looking Hu reached for a sheet of paper placed on Xi's folder but he was quickly held down by the younger man. 

Hu Jintao's exit from party congress 'a public humiliation'

Video footage published by AFP showed a steward repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat, drawing concerned looks from officials seated nearby.

Looking distressed, Hu appeared to resist leaving as the stewards escorted him out, turning back to his seat at one point.

On his way out, he exchanged words with Xi and patted Premier Li Keqiang, seated to the right of Xi, on the shoulder.

The incident sparked much speculation that Hu was being publicly admonished for a lack of support for Xi's power grab.

The 79-year-old ex-leader supports the old collective leadership model with representatives from different factions which Xi has undone.

China's Communist Party Congress: Xi solidifies his power

Xi on Sunday was reappointed as head of the Chinese Communist Party, which will almost certainly lead to him serving an unprecedented third term as president.

What was the reason given for Hu's departure?

A report by Chinese state news agency Xinhua tried to dismiss speculation of the episode having a political nature. 

Xinhua said Hu had insisted on attending the final day of the week-long congress on Saturday even though he "has been taking time to recuperate recently," without mentioning a specific illness. 

"When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better," the agency continued.

Hu had appeared slightly unsteady last Sunday when he was assisted onto the same stage for the opening ceremony.

No coverage of Congress drama, social media censored

Saturday's evening news in China featured images of Hu attending the session but none of him being removed.

On China's Twitter-like Weibo, a few social media users discussed the incident but by the evening, the comments section of almost all Weibo posts containing Hu's name were no longer visible, according to a Reuters review.

mm/ar (dpa, Reuters)