Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was physically removed from the Community Party Congress Saturday and his name was scrubbed from the country’s Internet as his successor tightened his ironclad hold on power.
The frail Hu, 79, appeared to look confused as he was hauled from his seat by a steward who repeatedly tried to lift the older man from his seat, drawing concerned looks from officials seated nearby.
Hu, who was seated next to Chinese president Xi Jingping, then put his hand on a sheet of paper placed on a folder in front of the leader.
Xi quickly put his own hand on the paper.
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.
Looking distressed, Hu appeared to resist leaving as the stewards escorted him out, turning back to his seat at one point. On his way out, he exchanged words with Xi and patted Premier Li Keqiang, seated to the right of Xi, on the shoulder.
There was no explanation for the exit of the frail leader, who retired in 2013. Hu was escorted away from the congress by officials about halfway through the day’s events at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Hu’s abrupt exit appeared to be censored on China’s social media platform, Weibo, with searches Saturday afternoon for his name returning posts published before the weekend, Bloomberg reported.
Xi is in the midst of consolidating the effort that is expected to land him an historic third five-year term, making him the most powerful leader since the country’s revolutionary hero Mao Zedong.
Hu’s removal was watched by the 2,000 congress attendees and captured on camera.
Xinhua News, China’s official news agency, reported that Hu had “insisted” upon attending the session even though he had been recuperating from an illness.
Some on social media suggested that Hu belongs to a faction of the party that objects to Xi’s continued reign.