Hu Jintao is escorted out of the party congress

BEIJING, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was unexpectedly escorted away from the closing ceremony of the ruling Communist Party Congress on Saturday.

Hu Jintao, 79, Xi’s predecessor, sits to Xi’s left. A Reuters witness at the convention said he was led off the stage in the main auditorium of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People by two stewards.

Video footage released by AFP showed a housekeeper repeatedly trying to lift Hu Jintao from his seat, drawing worried glances from officials sitting nearby. Hu then put his hand on a piece of paper on Xi’s folder, but Xi quickly put his hand on the paper.

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Li Zhanshu, China’s top legislator, sat on Hu’s right and handed the former president’s folder to the housekeeper, who finally stood up and wiped his head with a cloth.

Hu Jintao looked distressed and seemed to refuse to leave. He was escorted out by the housekeeper and turned back to his seat. On the way out, he talked with Xi Jinping and patted Premier Li Keqiang, who was sitting to Xi Jinping’s right, on the shoulder.

Given the careful stage management of most such events, the video of the event was so unusual that it was widely shared on Twitter but not found on China’s heavily censored social media platform. Twitter is blocked in China.

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo, some social media users hinted at the incident by commenting on old Hu Jintao posts, a common tactic to evade censorship in cyberspace.

By Saturday night, however, the comment sections of nearly all Weibo posts that included Hu’s name were no longer visible, according to Reuters’ comments.

State media coverage of the ceremony did not include what happened as reporters entered the hall.

CCTV’s official evening news coverage of Saturday’s closing ceremony included footage of Hu Jintao before the incident.

Last Sunday, when Hu Jintao was helped on the same stage to attend the opening ceremony of the conference, he looked a little unsteady.

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

Xinhuanet reporter Liu Jiawen learned that Hu Jintao has been taking time to recuperate recently, but he insisted on attending the closing meeting of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

“When he felt sick during the meeting, his staff accompanied him to the room next to the meeting to rest for his health. Now, he is much better,” the second tweet said.

Hu Jintao was not mentioned in Xinhua’s domestic Weibo post.

The five-yearly national congress ended with a revision of the party constitution, consolidating Xi Jinping’s core position and the guiding role of his political ideology within the party.

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

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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