The close of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee meeting asserting President Xi Jinping’s power as the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao Zedong brimmed with intrigue after the suspicious removal of former President Hu Jintao from the gathering.
Sunday, Xi was awarded a third five-year term as head of the CCP and president of China while the 2,300 party delegates gathered to approve the reshuffling of leadership to surround him with loyalists. However, the consolidation of power also appeared to demand a physical show of strength against opposition as the Agence France-Presse (AFP) captured the moment Hu was forcibly escorted away Saturday.
Official reports from Xinhua News Agency contended that the 79-year-old former president who served from 2003 to 2013 was merely in poor health and needed to rest, but the video clearly shows Hu resisting efforts to take him away from the ceremony.
After first tugging on his arm, an escort can be seen attempting to lift Hu, seated beside the president, to his feet. A moment later, the former president reaches for a folder with a piece of paper atop it and Xi immediately puts his own hand on it to keep Hu from taking it.
Li Zhanshu, China’s top legislator and third most senior leader, was seated to Hu’s left could be seen wiping his brow after the former president had risen. Li also handed off a separate folder, presumably Hu’s, to one of the escorts, head of the CCP’s secretariat Kong Shaoxun according to CNN.
At one moment, Li looked to rise, but Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning seated beside him tugged on the man’s jacket encouraging him to remain seated.
Reactions to the video suggested the moment was an ill portent of things to come with China scholar Gordon G. Chang even encouraging people within the country to flee before it was too late. “Hardliners are in and reformers are out at the #CCP’s Central Committee. #HuJintao, #XiJinping’s predecessor, was escorted out of the the 20th National Congress, apparently against his will. If you’re still in #China, whether you are #Chinese or a foreigner, you should leave, now.”
Hardliners are in and reformers are out of the #CCP’s Central Committee. #HuJintao, #XiJinping’s predecessor, was escorted out of the 20th National Congress, apparently against his will. If you’re still in #China, whether you are #Chinese or a foreigner, you should leave, now.
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) October 22, 2022
Chang also suggested, “A [Xi] audacious enough to expel [Hu] in front of everyone is capable of most anything. We must now prepare for the worse,” and further tweeted, “#MaoZedong once attempted to compel absolute obedience, but in the process almost destroyed #China. Will [Xi]’s attempt to compel absolute obedience–there is no other explanation for his complete and public humiliation of [Hu]–end up ripping the country apart?”
#MaoZedong once attempted to compel absolute obedience, but in the process almost destroyed #China. Will #XiJinping’s attempt to compel absolute obedience—there is no other explanation for his complete and public humiliation of #HuJintao—end up ripping the country apart? #CCP
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) October 22, 2022
Entrepreneur and political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy also weighed in and wrote, “I have a feeling this is the last we’ll hear of Hu Jintao. Brace for the beginning of a new era, I don’t think the world is quite ready for what’s coming.”
I have a feeling this is the last we’ll hear of Hu Jintao. Brace for the beginning of a new era, I don’t think the world is quite ready for what’s coming. https://t.co/MBlpoTBLw6
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) October 22, 2022
Others suggested that this was Xi’s way of showing that he would be making a move on Taiwan as Hu had been peaceable by comparison.
Hu Jintao's public removal may be deliberate messaging to the US. He was a dove on Taiwan vs Xi Jinping. It may mean, military action on Taiwan by China my be forthcoming, or at least the message is of a "firm" China. https://t.co/eABpbS7WO0
— Sankrant Sanu सानु संक्रान्त ਸੰਕ੍ਰਾਂਤ ਸਾਨੁ (@sankrant) October 22, 2022
What is known for certain is that outlets like CNN that attempted to cover the Hu’s departure from the meeting were censored on air and, according to Reuters, there was no coverage to be found in Chinese media while mentions were stripped from their social media platform Weibo.
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