Fresh China congress footage deepens mystery over former leader Hu Jintao’s exit

Fresh footage has emerged showing more of what happened before China’s former leader Hu Jintao was dramatically led out of a session during last week’s Communist Party Congress in Beijing, the media reported.

It shows in greater detail how outgoing Politburo member Li Zhanshu, to Hu’s left, takes a file away and speaks to him, BBC reported.

Then China’s current leader Xi Jinping gives lengthy instructions to another man who subsequently attempts to persuade Hu to leave.

The unexpected moment led to intense speculation, with some arguing that it was a deliberate power play by Xi to show that the more consensus-driven Hu era was definitively over while others suggested it could have been because of Hu’s poor health, BBC reported.

The moment unfolded the day before Xi announced his third term and his top team of loyalists — both the timing and the fact that Chinese politics are so opaque sparked a global guessing game as to what had happened.

Many wondered if it was a deliberate piece of political theatre. Unlike Hu, whose presidency between 2003 and 2013 was seen as a time of opening up to the outside world, Xi has presided over a country that has become increasingly isolated.

The new footage, filmed by Singapore based Channel News Asia, does not debunk the official line that Hu was ill. But it also suggests that Hu’s handling of the document in front of him played a role in the incident, BBC reported.

Meanwhile Hu said something to an impassive Xi as he was escorted out, while the other men seated in the row did not turn around as he was led out.

Deng Yuwen, a former editor of Communist Party newspaper the Study Times, says there is no reason that the party would put a document that Hu was not allowed to read right in front of him at such a high-profile meeting with cameras rolling.

But Deng says the spectacle of other senior officials — including Hu’s former second in command Wen Jiabao — looking straight ahead as Hu was led out behind them does say something about Xi’s China, BBC reported.

“There would be a chilling effect on the officials watching what was happening on the stage,” he said. “Although this won’t threaten Xi’s power, it will create a psychological impact on those officials.”

If the previous day’s drama was indeed unscripted and motivated by concern for Hu’s well-being, Xi’s new Politburo Standing Committee line up the following day drove home the symbolism of the former leader’s exit – there would be no return to the policies of the Hu Jintao era, BBC reported.

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