Hu Jintao, 79, president of China between 2003 and 2013, suffered a tragic scene on October 22, shortly before the closing ceremony of the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The assembly consecrated Xi Jinping as undisputed leader for a third term, the likes of which had not happened since the days of Mao Zedong.
Former leader Hu Jintao was unexpectedly taken from the Great Hall of the People against his will. With an unusual move and with dramatic implications, when local and international media were allowed into the auditorium overlooking Tiananmen Square. Two officials abducted Hu Jintao, physically removing him from his position alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Photo Twitter @ROBZIK
What initially appeared as a request for help, thanks to the removal of the ruling scene from media positions, became a forced exit. A move, pushed by two clerks, as appears from the examination of the videos shot which took the stage. Li Zhanshu, one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee seated next to Hu Jintao, seemed frightened by what was happening. Enough to try to get up before being challenged by Wang Huning, another member of the committee.
China, Hu “escorted”
Hu, 79, was seated to the left of President Xi Jinping when he was helped out of his seat and effectively “escorted” past the cameras and more than 2,000 delegates. The former leader seemed stunned and reluctant to leave the front row of jobs in the room. A steward tried to grab the seated Hu by the arm but was rebuffed, then tried to lift the elderly former president with both hands under his armpits. After a verbal exchange lasting about a minute, during which Hu said something to Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, he couldn’t help but get carried away.
Photo Ansa/Xinhua Li Xueren
Images from around the world
Many images filmed by international media and news agencies that quickly went around the world on social networks. Not China, however, where internet censorship is severe. In one video, Xi Jinping is seen holding papers on the desk as Hu tries to grab them. Hu Jintao then pats Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the shoulder, as he is forced to leave his post, carried away by the clerks. Most of the Communist Party leadership stared at the audience, completely unaware of what was happening.
Who is Hu Jintao
An indifference which, to whoever sees the transmitted images, can only appear icy. And maybe the reason is not hard to pin down. Hu Jintao, former chairman and former general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, is considered by many observers to be the leader of the informal opposition within the Central Committee. He supported good relations with the United States and opposed resolving the Taiwan question through permanent frontal confrontation. Throughout his years in power in China, Hu Jintao led a much more collective leadership – not “imperial” like that of Xi Jinping – and had to balance various factions represented on the Politburo Standing Committee.
Portraits of Chinese leaders of the past seventy years. From left Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang, Zeming, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. Photo Ansa / Epa Comment Hwee Young
The Hu years – he held the presidency between 2003 and 2013 – appeared as a time of openness to the outside world and of greater tolerance towards new ideas. The 2008 Beijing Olympics were a peak for the country’s international exposure. Foreign companies were settling in China, recalls Stephen McDonell on the BBC website, tourists were flocking, the Internet was freer, local media were freer and China’s global reputation continued to improve. Under Hu’s period, economic growth was consistently in the double digits.
Xi Jinping, another direction
Xi Jinping – whom the 20th Congress crowned president for a third term and “centre of the whole Party” – has taken China in a very different direction, the BBC explains. As general secretary, Xi Jinping eliminated all opponents through a crackdown, ostensibly against corruption. A “purge” which politically and humanely ousted 4.7 million civil servants.
The 20th Congress served Xi Jinping to expel those who still think there should be different paths for China from high party positions. From an economic, social and political point of view. One of the last things Hu Juntao saw before he was forcibly taken away was the composition of the new 205-person Central Committee. A body that does not include, among others, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, both liberal in economics. Both related to the ideas of the previous administration. That of Hu Jintao.
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