The CCP’s 20th National Congress wrapped up on Saturday, October 22, with unforeseen drama as former Party leader Hu Jintao was escorted off the stage.

In this footage shared by a reporter from The Straits Times, 79-year-old Hu was seated next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping until a staff member approached him. While Hu seemed reluctant to leave, the steward supported his arm and helped him up. 

In one curious moment shared by AFP, Hu touched a folder by Xi, but he held it back. Over on the other side of Hu, sat the chairman of the Standing Committee, Li Zhanshu. He handed over what looked like Hu’s document to the steward. 

Hu eventually left after Kong Shaoxun, head of the Party’s secretariat approached and also gestured for to him to leave. Before departing with the two stewards, he told Xi something and patted Premier Li Keqiang on the shoulder. Both men gave him a slight nod in response. What Hu and Xi discussed remains unknown.

The incident happened as journalists were allowed inside the hall, which was the main auditorium of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. While the CCP managed to keep it out from the mainland audience, the moment was spread internationally in high resolution.

Hu’s seat was emptied as the 2,300 delegates were about to vote to cement Xi’s core leadership. According to Reuters, Hu already appeared tired and was helped onto the same stage for the congress opening ceremony on October 16. Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, 96, and former premiers Zhu Rongji, 93, also missed the congress over purported health problems.

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