Hu Jintao escorted out of the party congress

Hu Jintao escorted out of the party congress
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BEIJING, Oct 22 (Reuters) – 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, was seated to Xi’s left. He was led off the stage of the main auditorium of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing by two commissars, a Reuters witness at the congress said.

Video footage released by AFP showed a butler repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat, drawing concerned looks from officials sitting nearby. Hu then put his hand on a sheet of paper placed in Xi’s folder, but Xi quickly put his hand on the sheet.

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China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu, seated to Hu’s right, handed the former president’s folder to an administrator and wiped his head with a cloth after Hu finally stood up.

Looking distraught, Hu seemed reluctant to leave as the butlers escorted him away, returning to his seat at one point. On his way 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 stage management of most of these events, was widely shared on Twitter but could not be found on China’s heavily censored social media platforms. Twitter is blocked in China.

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

However, by Saturday night, the comments section of almost all Weibo posts that contained Hu’s name were no longer visible, according to a Reuters review.

State media coverage of the ceremony did not include the scene, which occurred as journalists entered the hall.

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

Hu seemed a little unsettled last Sunday when he was helped onto the same stage for the opening ceremony of the congress.

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

“Xinhuanet reporter Liu Jiawen learned that Hu Jintao insisted on attending the closing session of the 20th National Party Congress, even though he has recently taken some time to recover,” he said.

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

Hu was not mentioned in Xinhua’s national Weibo posts.

Congress once every five years concluded with amendments to the party constitution that cement Xi’s central status and the leading role of his political thought within the party.

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Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Ryan Woo, Tony Munroe, and Yew Lun Tian; Edited by Lincoln Feast, William Mallard, Edmund Blair and Alistair Bell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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