A former Chinese president was booted from his seat next to current President Xi Jinping and escorted away Saturday in a shocking scene at the closing ceremony of a weeklong congress widely seen as Xi’s “coronation” as leader for life.
Hu Jintao, who preceded Xi as president of China from 2003-2013, looked confused and even angry as he was unexpectedly hauled away from the closing ceremony of the ruling Communist Party congress. The 79-year-old former leader touched Xi’s shoulder and the two appeared to exchange words, but the current president seemed unmoved. The stunning incident went viral as China experts tried to figure out what it could mean.
“A lot of people very studiously looking straight ahead as Hu Jintao is escorted out of the Great Hall just before Xi’s speech begins,” tweeted Guardian correspondent Helen Davidson. “He seems confused by what’s happening.”
The forced removal of fmr CCP Chairman Hu Jintao
Xi doesn’t even look at him pic.twitter.com/ERAiokRPtT
— ShapiroExposed.com (@JackPosobiec) October 22, 2022
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.”
Video circulated online showed a man trying to forcibly pull Hu from his seat, as Xi stared straight ahead and other officials averted their gazes. Hu appeared to reach for a sheet of paper on a folder in front of Xi, but Xi put his hand down on the sheet.
A man identified by AFP as powerful legislator Li Zhanshu, who was seated on the other side of Hu away from Xi, gave Hu’s folder to a steward and mopped his brow with a handkerchief.
The incident was described as highly unusual given the careful management of every detail of such events. It was widely shared on Twitter but 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 in a Sunday speech.
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.