Live Updates: China’s Xi Jinping unveils CPC Politburo Standing Committee leader

On October 22, Hu Jintao was assisted at the closing ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.

Xi Jinping lifted the veil on his top leadership today, flooding his inner circle with close allies — and excluding those outside his political orbit, including Premier Li Keqiang.

But yesterday, at the end of the party’s 20th National Congress, another figure came to the fore – Hu Jintao, Xi’s former paramount leader, was accidentally taken out of the conference room at the closing ceremony.

Hu, 79, was sitting directly next to Xi on stage when two men approached him. They talked briefly, and Hu seemed reluctant at first. Hu finally stood up and got down from his seat, accompanied by two people, one of whom took his arm.

On the way out, Hu Jintao was seen gesturing to Xi Jinping and saying something to the leader. Then he patted Premier Li, Hu’s ally and former protégé, on the shoulder. Both Xi and Li appeared to nod; it was unclear whether Xi was speaking.

“As far as I know, we’ve really never seen any disruption to a proceeding like this,” said Victor Shih, an expert on Chinese elite politics at the University of California, San Diego.

The circumstances surrounding his departure were unclear, and CNN censored in China when it reported Hu’s departure.

The dramatic moment wasn’t reported on state Chinese media or discussed on Chinese social media, and such conversations are highly restricted – but it sparked a storm of speculation overseas, with some analysts suggesting it could be a power struggle Games are in learning.

Hu Jintao was China’s top leader from 2003 to 2013, leading an era of relatively more openness and economic integration. Hu Jintao witnessed China’s landmark 2008 Beijing Olympics and a decade of double-digit economic growth.

Hu has never been stronger – thanks in large part to what is considered a balanced influence of multiple parties and parties elsewhere, including his predecessor Jiang Zemin.

Hu is linked to a faction linked to the Communist Youth League, whose influence has waned considerably under Xi Jinping.

The official media broke the silence: On Saturday night, Xinhua, China’s official news agency, wrote on its English-language Twitter account that Hu “has insisted on attending the closing ceremony of the party’s 20th National Congress, even though he has been spending time recuperating recently.”

“When he was unwell during the meeting, his staff accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue to rest for his health. Now, he is much better,” Xinhua wrote.

Twitter is banned in China. So far, Xinhua has not released the statement on its website or Chinese social media.

Many experts remain skeptical. Shi noted that after Hu voted for the new central committee, he sat down “in a fairly stable manner” — while if he felt unwell, staff could “drive him away and give him a doctor” after the vote.

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