Former top Chinese leader Hu Jintao was unexpectedly expelled from the closing ceremony of a major meeting of China’s ruling Communist Party on Saturday, images and video show.
Hu, 79, was seated in a prominent position at the main table of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, right next to his successor, current leader Xi Jinping, when he was approached by a staff member , according to images and video from the meeting.
As he sat, Hu appeared to speak briefly with the male staff member, while Politburo Standing Committee member Li Zhanshu, who sat on the other side, had his hand on Hu’s back.
Hu then appeared to get up with the help of the staff member, who had linked his arm around the former chief’s, as a second man approached. Hu spoke briefly with the two men and at first seemed reluctant to leave.
He was then escorted by the two men from his seat, one holding his arm, as the other members of the group seated behind the main table looked on.
As he exited, Hu was seen pausing and appeared to say something to Xi and pat the leader and Premier Li Keqiang on their shoulders – both of whom appear to have nodded. It was unclear whether Xi had spoken.
At one point, as Hu stood and chatted with the two men before walking out, Li Zhanshu appeared to try to get up from his seat, but was tugged back to his seat by a tug on his suit jacket by a another member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Wang Huning, seated next to him.
Hu, who retired in 2013, has been seen in public as increasingly fragile in recent years.
Hu’s departure marked a dramatic moment during the otherwise procedural closing day of the Communist Party’s National Congress.
The week-long event, which included some 2,300 delegates, ended on Saturday with the approval of an elite party reshuffle, about 200 Central Committee members and approval of changes to the Party Constitution, where several sentences related to Xi Jinping policies and ideology have been inscribed.
The closing event comes a day before the reveal of the party’s new senior leadership. Xi, who is widely seen as having cemented power around him by eliminating rivals and dampening the lingering power of party elders, is set to be reconfirmed as party leader, breaking the two-term norm for the top leader. observed in recent decades.