China‘s former leader Hu Jintao was forcibly removed from his seat next to President Xi Jinping at the televised Communist Party Congress today, before his name appeared to vanish from Chinese social media.
Hu Jintao was taken off stage shortly after foreign media came in to the Great Hall of the People, Beijing.
Search results for him on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, have appeared to be heavily censored since his hasty removal.
Late on Saturday, state media claimed Hu was ‘not feeling well’ when he was escorted out, but was doing ‘much better’ after getting some rest.
During the incident, the 79-year-old looked slightly disorientated as two assistants came to speak to him and reluctant to move in part of the clip.
The two assistants helped him stand, firstly trying to grab him under his arms.
Hu seemed downcast as he was dragged away, leaning down to speak to president Xi Jinping, 69, who nodded as one of the officials pulled his arm.
He also patted Premier Li Keqiang, seated to the right of Xi, on the shoulder.
The official seemed to be anxious to get him out of the room as he was then escorted out.
China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu, seated to Hu’s right, gave the former president’s folder to a steward, wiping his own head with a cloth after Hu finally stood up.
There was no explanation as to why the former Chinese leader, in power between 2003 and 2013, was removed.
Speculation has been circulating about the incident, with some saying it was due to his health and others saying it was a deliberately orchestrated scene.
Some had noted that Hu Jintao seemed unsteady last Sunday when he was escorted on stage for the opening ceremony of the congress.
The congress lasts a week. It is expected that Xi Jinping will be announced as the president for a third term when the congress draws to a close tomorrow.
The Communist Party Congress is held in Beijing every five years and cemented Xi Jing Ping’s position as a powerful leader.
Jiang Zemin, 96, who was president before Mr Hu, did not appear at this congress.
The incident with Hu Jintao comes as China prepares for a leadership shuffle on Sunday.
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