Former Chinese President Hu Jintao Escorted From Party Congress

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BEIJING — Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was unexpectedly escorted out of the closing ceremony of a ruling Communist Party congress on Saturday.

Hu, 79, Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, sat to Xi’s left. He was led off stage from the main auditorium of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing by two stewards, a Reuters witness told the congress.

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Video footage released by AFP shows a steward repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat, drawing worried stares from officials seated nearby. Hu then put his hand on a sheet of paper placed on Xi’s file but Xi quickly put his hand on the sheet.

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China’s top lawmaker Li Zhanshu, seated to Hu’s right, handed the former president’s file to a steward, wiping his head with a rag after Hu finally stood up.

Looking distressed, Hu appeared to resist leaving as stewards escorted him away, returning to his seat at one point. As he walked out, he exchanged words with Xi and patted Premier Li Keqiang, who was seated to Xi’s right, on the shoulder.

Video of the incident, highly unusual given the meticulous scene management of most of these events, was widely shared on Twitter but could not be found on heavily censored Chinese social media platforms. Twitter is blocked in China.

On China’s Weibo Twitter, a few social media users alluded to the incident by commenting on old posts featuring Hu, a common tactic used to evade cyberspace censors.

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By Saturday evening, however, the comment section of almost all Weibo posts containing Hu’s name was no longer visible, according to a Reuters review.

Media coverage of the ceremony did not include the scene, which occurred as reporters entered the venue.

Official CCTV evening news coverage of Saturday’s congress closing ceremony included footage with Hu as usual before the incident.

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

Late Saturday, China’s official Xinhua news agency tweeted about the incident.

« Xinhuanet reporter Liu Jiawen learned that Hu Jintao insisted on attending the closing session of the 20th National Party Congress, despite the fact that he had taken time off to recover recently, » he said. declared.

« When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting place to rest. Now he is much better, « said a second tweet .

There was no mention of Hu on Xinhua’s national posts on Weibo.

The once-every-five-year congress concluded with amendments to the party’s constitution that cement Xi’s central status and the guiding role of his political thought within the party. (Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Ryan Woo, Tony Munroe and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Lincoln Feast, William Mallard, Edmund Blair and Alistair Bell)


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