Notable figures from around the world expressed shock after images emerged late on Friday night of Chinese communist dictator Xi Jinping having his predecessor, former President Hu Jintao, taken out of the Chinese Party Congress.
The New York Times noted that the party congress is a highly choreographed event, which caused even more concern for the unexpected removal of Hu, who tried to talk to Xi as he was being forcibly removed.
Some reports and commentators tried to suggest that Hu might have been feeling unwell, but video showed him repeatedly appearing to resist being removed from the room as he looked confused and even angry at being unexpectedly hauled away.
The ouster of Hu from Beijing’s Great Hall of the People came before Xi was to give a major speech to some 2,300 key CCP officials. Xi, who in 2018 ended the two-term limit for presidents, is expected to be officially confirmed for a third term as CCP general secretary. He serves as both general secretary of the Communist Party, president and head of the armed forces, and is often referred to as “Paramount,” or “Supreme Leader.”
While video of the incident went viral on Twitter, it was absent from China’s heavily censored social media platforms.
The 69-year-old Xi spoke Sunday at the opening session of the once-every-five-years congress and signaled a pending move on Taiwan, did a victory lap over Beijing’s defeat of Hong Kong’s democracy aspirations, and vowed to defeat COVID.
Xi struck a stridently nationalistic tone at the opening of the 20th Party Congress, which appears set to affirm him as its leader for life. He seemed to embrace that his muscular government is on a collision course with the West and intends to take over Taiwan.
The following are some of the most notable responses online to the viral incident:
- Melissa Chan, reporter at VICE: “Worst case scenario is Xi just pulled a macabre power move intentionally done in front of the country and the world and we all just witnessed a political purge served ice cold.”
- Monica Crowley, former Treasury official: “The ruthless brutality of the communist purge. Absorb this.”
- Emily Maitlis, author and journalist: “Hard to overstate just what a chilling moment this was at the end of a highly choreographed Congress. Xi – Chinese leader who has changed rules to allow for indefinite terms in office – has his predecessor Hu taken away.”
- Darren Grimes, GBNews: “The way in which the frightened, ashen faces refuse to look at their former leader. An awful sight of communism in action.”
- John Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope: “Everyone in Chinese leadership must walk around completely paranoid and stressed out, every day of their lives — that this, could happen to them. No words.”
- James Stavridis, Vice Chairman of the Carlyle Group, PhD, Admiral, US Navy (Retired), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO: “Watch this chilling and Orwellian scene. Hu gets heave ho. Xi you later Hu.”
- Luis Garicano, economics professor: “This is your reward, Mr Hu, for playing by the rules and leaving after two terms… A naked display of power by Xi in front of the world.”
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): “It is clear that Xi controls the Party Congress and wanted to show his muscles to the world by humiliating Hu Jintao in front of the foreign press.”
Greg Wilson contributed to this report.