China’s former president is DELETED from the internet after being kicked out of Xi’s meeting – as state media claims he was ‘sick’
China’s former president has been wiped off the internet after he was kicked out of a meeting with Xi Jinping – with state media claiming he was ‘sick’.
Hu Jintao, 79, was unexpectedly removed from his position next to the president Xi and walked off the stage at the televised Communist Party Congress.
His name has since been deleted from Weibo, ChinaTwitter’s version of Twitter, which appears to only feature heavily censored or limited reporting on official accounts.
Later, the official Xinhua news agency said that Jintao was escorted off the stage because he “didn’t feel well”.
“When he did not feel 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,” the report said.
Footage of the former leader being manhandled at the closing ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has spread around the world
The 79-year-old seemed reluctant to be escorted from the front row of the proceedings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing – where he sat next to President Xi Jinping.
A steward can be seen trying to pick up Hu – who was China leader from 2003 to 2013 – by the arm before being shaken.
The steward then tries to lift the frail former president with both hands under the armpits.
After a tense exchange lasting about a minute, during which Hu spoke briefly with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, he was led out of the room.
Xi, who is expected to be reinstated for a third term on Sunday, can be seen holding papers on the desk as Hu appears to be trying to grab them.
Hu pats Li on the shoulder as he leaves, as most of his co-workers stare straight ahead during the bizarre exchange.
Chinese censors seemed to quickly erase any recent reference to him on the internet.
Former diplomat Roger Garside said the maneuver was likely a “show of power” by Xi and called the incident “extremely humiliating”.
“I’m sure this is a show of power and authority from Xi Jinping,” he told Sun Online.
“The exclusion of Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Wang Yang from the 20th Central Committee is a clear sign that Xi has won the fight to choose the new leadership that will be revealed tomorrow.”
The week-long Chinese Congress took place mostly behind closed doors – but Hu’s sudden departure came shortly after reporters were allowed to cover the closing ceremony.
Authorities have offered no explanation for Hu’s exit, which came just before the 2,300 delegates to Congress voted unanimously to approve Xi’s “central” leadership position.
Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, agrees the move may be due to health reasons – but the timing of his exit is suspect.
He told The Sun Online: “Hu was a man with a strong sense of service when he was in power, and apparently before this incident people seemed worried about him before the attendant arrived.
“I imagine the main issue was that they didn’t want him potentially fainting next to Xi or while Xi was talking. He’s been in poor health for several years.
“Yet a most inauspicious time for that to happen.”
Neil Thomas, senior China analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group, said: “We still don’t know what caused Hu’s actions, such as whether it was opposition to Xi’s power or simply from an unfortunately timed senior moment.
“So without more information, it’s hard to draw any solid conclusions about how this incident relates to Chinese politics.”
Search results for “Hu Jintao” on the Twitter-like Weibo platform appeared to be heavily censored on Saturday – with the most recent result dated Friday and posts limited to those from official accounts.
On Sunday, Xi is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as party general secretary and chairman of the party’s central military commission.
This will allow Xi to serve a third term as China’s president, to be announced during the annual legislative sessions in March.
Since taking over from Hu a decade ago, Xi has become China’s most authoritative leader since Mao Zedong.
Xi has crushed opposition to his rule within the party, with several of his rivals jailed for corruption, and he has shown no tolerance for any form of public dissent.