Former Chinese leader abruptly quits key assembly – Reuters

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao abruptly left the closing session of a key Communist Party meeting on Saturday, as the country’s new leadership was due to be elected.

Videos circulating on social media showed two men approaching Hu, who was seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping. After a brief conversation, one of the men appeared to urge the 79-year-old to leave and grabbed him by the arm. Hu seemed reluctant to comply with the request.

Another official sitting next to the former president then apparently joined the conversation and said something to him. At one point, Hu appeared to try to take some documents between him and Xi, but the Chinese president resisted the attempt. Otherwise, the incumbent leader has hardly reacted to the development.

As he left his seat on the stage of the Great Hall of the People, Hu appeared to address Xi again, eliciting a curt response and a nod. The former president then left the room, accompanied by two officials.

Some Westerners commentators were quick to describe moving as « purge, » as Western media reported that the former leader had been « escort » of the party congress.

According to Chinese media, Hu had to leave the session due to health issues. The former president « didn’t feel well » during the meeting and was accompanied by his staff to a room next to the hall to rest, Xinhua news agency reported.

Hu had insisted on attending the session despite some health issues and « take time to recuperate recently, » adds the agency.

Some commenters on social media noted that Hu had also been accompanied in the meeting « A few days ago. »

The development comes as the Chinese Communist Party is expected to decide whether to allow Xi to continue in his role. If he stays, he will lead his party and country to a third term, which is unprecedented in modern Chinese history.

So far, the reins of power in the country have been handed over to a new generation of leaders following the outgoing leader’s second term. According to some media, Hu, who himself resigned at the end of his second term a decade ago, opposed Xi staying in office longer. Hu served as Chinese president between 2003 and 2013 and was succeeded by Xi.

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