TAIPEI — A moment of unanticipated drama occurred at the normally highly staged Communist Party Congress of China on Saturday as former Chinese President Hu Jintao was taken out of the building.
In Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Hu, 79, was seated next to President Xi Jinping when a guy in a suit and surgical mask approached him, spoke to him and appearing to tug his right arm.
The man then put both hands under Hu’s armpits and tried to raise him out of his seat while Xi watched. Before the person stood in their way and attempted to hoist Hu once more, Xi appeared to be speaking to his predecessor.
Hu eventually stood up after it appeared as though he was attempting to return to his seat, when another man in a mask entered the scene. Before being led away, he spoke briefly with Xi and put a hand on Premier Li Keqiang’s shoulder, the country’s second-ranking official.
Li Zhanshu, the head of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top political body, and Hu had been speaking just before the incident.
To converse with the former president, Li turned his chair toward him. Li attempted to stand up as the men led Hu away but was restrained by Wang Huning, another party official.
The incident, which lasted for several minutes and happened just after the international media were allowed inside the hall to cover the twice-decade event where new appointments and promotions are made and political strategy for the upcoming five-year cycle is set, was not explained.
It happened after the party, which has around 96 million members, accepted modifications to its constitution designed to solidify Xi’s place as the party’s de facto leader and the primacy of his political philosophy.
The “Two Establishes,” one of the modifications, designates Xi as the “core” head of the party and his ideas as the compass for China’s future growth. The “Two Safeguards” guarantee Xi’s position as the party’s “core” leader and its centralized control over China.
The new Politburo, which generally consists of 25 persons, will be revealed by the central committee on Sunday. Additionally, the party’s highest leadership group, the new standing committee, will be revealed.
Four of the seven members of the nation’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, including Premier LiKeqiang, who is a major supporter of economic reforms, will not be reappointed following a leadership shift on Sunday.
There is a general consensus that Xi Jinping will continue to serve as general secretary and commander of the Chinese armed forces.
He might possibly be named party chairman, a position previously held by Mao Zedong, who ruled the People’s Republic of China for 27 years following its formation in 1949. This would be in light of the strengthening of his position as a key leader.
President, his third position, is not up for renewal until the spring.
The events of a turbulent year, including a severe economic slowdown, discontent with his zero-Covid policy, and China’s growing estrangement from the West, which was exacerbated by economic competition, tensions over the Taiwan Strait, and disagreements over Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, don’t seem to have diminished Xi’s power.
Andreas Fulda, a political scientist at Nottingham University in the U.K., told NBC News on Saturday that Xi’s long-term political destiny was not assured.
People “would blame the man when there are setbacks or failures of government,” he added, adding that authority was distributed more collaboratively under previous presidents among many ministries rather than through the central party.
“Every time something goes wrong in China, the party will be blamed, and Xi Jinping will be blamed,” he remarked, referring to how prominent Xi Jinping is and how pervasive the party is.
President Xi stated that the Chinese Communist Party, now in its 100th year, was still in its prime in his concluding remarks.
According to The Associated Press, he continued, “The Communist Party of China is once again starting a new journey on which it will confront new difficulties.”
The socialist song “The Internationale” was played as the convention came to a close.
Leila Sackur reported from London, and Janis Mackey Frayer from Beijing.