Live Updates: China’s Xi Jinping Unveils Communist Party Standing Committee Leaders of Politburo

Hu Jintao is assisted to his seat during the closing ceremony of the 20th Party Congress in Beijing on October 22.

Xi Jinping unveiled his top leadership team today and filled it with close allies from his inner circle – sidelining those outside his political circle, including Premier Li Keqiang.

But another figure took center stage yesterday, at the end of the 20th Party Congress – former top leader Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, who was unexpectedly ushered out of the room during the closing ceremony.

Hu, 79, was sitting directly next to Xi on stage when he was approached by two men. They spoke briefly, with Hu appearing reluctant at first. Hu finally stood up, escorted from his seat by the two men, one holding his arm.

On the way out, Hu was seen gesturing to Xi and saying something to the manager. He then patted Premier Li – an ally and former protégé of Hu – on the shoulder. Both Xi and Li seem to have nodded; it was not clear if Xi was speaking.

“We really haven’t seen any disruption of the cases like this pretty much ever, as far as I can remember,” said Victor Shih, an expert on Chinese elite politics at the University of California San Diego.

The circumstances surrounding his departure were not immediately clear, and CNN was censored on air in China when it reported on Hu’s exit.

The dramatic moment has not been reported in state-run Chinese-language media or discussed on Chinese social media, where such conversation is highly restricted – but it set off a firestorm of speculation abroad, with some analysts suggesting it could be a power play by Xi’s side.

Hu held the role of China’s supreme leader from 2003 to 2013, presiding over a relatively more open and economically integrated era. Hu oversaw China’s landmark 2008 Beijing Olympics and a decade of double-digit economic growth.

Hu was never as powerful as Xi is now — in no small part because of what is believed to be the balancing influence of several party factions and party elders, including his predecessor Jiang Zemin.

Hu was associated with a faction affiliated with the Communist Youth League, a group whose influence has waned significantly in recent years under Xi’s rule.

State media breaks the silence: On Saturday night, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency wrote on its English-language Twitter account that Hu “insisted on attending the closing session of the party’s 20th National Congress, despite taking time to recover recently.”

“When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting place to rest. Now he is much better,” Xinhua wrote.

Twitter is banned in China. To date, Xinhua has not published the statement on its website or Chinese-language social media.

And many experts are still in doubt. Shih pointed out, after Hu had cast his vote for the new Central Committee line-up, that he had sat down “in a fairly stable manner” – whereas if he had felt ill, the staff could have “thrown him away and given him medical attention”. . ” right after the vote.

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