Former Chinese President Hu Jintao has left the Party Congress

BEIJING, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Former Chinese President Hu Jintao made an unexpected exit at the closing ceremony of the ruling Communist Party congress.

Xi’s immediate predecessor, Hu, 79, was seated to Xi’s left. A Reuters witness at the congress said he was led from the stage of the Great Hall of the People’s Auditorium in Beijing by two secretaries.

Video footage released by AFP showed a stewardess repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat as officers sitting nearby looked on in concern. Hu then placed his hand on a piece of paper placed in Xi’s folder, but Xi quickly placed his hand on the paper.

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

Distraught, Hu appeared to resist leaving, with attendants ushering him out and returning to his seat at one point. On the way out, he exchanged words with Xi and patted Premier Li Keqiang on the shoulder, who was sitting to Xi’s right.

Video of the incident, highly unusual given the meticulous stage management of most such events, was widely shared on Twitter but could not be found on China’s heavily censored social media platforms.

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo, a few social media users noted the incident by commenting on old posts containing Hu, a common trick used to evade cyberspace censorship.

By Saturday evening, however, the comment section of almost all Weibo posts bearing Hu’s name was missing, according to a Reuters review.

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The state media coverage of the ceremony did not feature the scene where journalists entered the hall.

Hu appeared a bit unsteady last Sunday when he assisted on the same stage for the opening ceremony of the Congress.

The five-yearly congress concluded with amendments to the party’s constitution, confirming Xi’s prominent status and the guiding role of his political thinking within the party.

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Reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Ryan Wu; Editing by Lincoln Feist, William Mallard and Edmund Blair

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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