Former Chinese leader Hu Jintao

As the Party Congress comes to an end, former Chinese leader Hu Jintao was unceremoniously forced out of the room.

Hu Jintao, the former premier of China, was unceremoniously escorted out of the Communist Party Congress’ closing ceremony on Saturday. It was a dramatic moment in an otherwise carefully staged occasion.

Video of the meeting reveals that Hu, 79, was approached by a staff member as he was prominently placed at the front table in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, right next to his successor, current leader Xi Jinping.

Li Zhanshu, China’s third-highest ranking leader, was sitting to Hu’s other side and placed his hand on the chair behind Hu’s back as they both sat and appeared to have a lengthy conversation.

After being raised up by the staff member who had been holding the former leader by the arm, Hu then appeared to stand up as Kong Shaoxun, the head of the party’s secretariat, approached. Hu briefly conversed with the two men and at first seemed reluctant to depart.

The staff member held Hu’s arm as the two men led him out of his seat, with the other party members watching from behind the main table. Uncertain circumstances surround Hu’s departure.

Hu looked to pause as he left, appear to speak with Xi, and then pat Premier Li Keqiang on the shoulder. Xi and Li both seemed to nod. What Xi responded with is unclear.

Hu was still seated when Xi seemed to cover a document Hu was attempting to reach for with his hand, stopping him from doing so.

In a subsequent instance, when Hu had stood up and appeared to be arguing with the two men before leaving, Li Zhanshu attempted to get up from his seat but was redirected by Wang Huning, a fellow member of the Politburo Standing Committee, who tugged on his suit jacket.

Hu, who retired in 2013, has been publicly spotted in recent years appearing to be in declining health.

The party is unlikely to provide a public justification for Hu’s abrupt departure because of the opaqueness of Chinese elite politics. The dramatic event hasn’t been mentioned in any Chinese media outlets or on social media, where such discussion is severely constrained. However, it has sparked a flurry of speculative activity elsewhere.

Before delegates were asked to approve the party’s work report at a session accessible to press, Hu left the Congress after its more than 2,000 delegates had officially endorsed the new members of the party’s elite Central Committee during a private session.

Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, who are both regarded as Hu’s proteges, were not included in the newly announced 205-member Central Committee. As a result, despite being 67 years old and one year under the party’s unofficial retirement age, neither will keep their places on the Standing Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body. On the list of new Central Committee members is 69-year-old Xi.

The Standing Committee’s membership will be made public on Sunday, the day after the Congress adjourns. It is anticipated that Xi will be re-confirmed as party chairman in an unconventional move and surround himself with allies. Xi is largely believed to have solidified his position of power by removing opponents and reducing the residual influence of party elders.

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