New footage has emerged of former Chinese leader Hu Jintao minutes before he was escorted off the stage at the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade national congress, prompting speculation he was suffering a health crisis or was possibly upset over the removal of his proteges from the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
In it, Hu engages with the party’s third-ranking official Li Zhanshu, who appears to be explaining to Hu about the contents of a sheaf of papers held in a red paper folder or under a red cover page.
Hu appears confused and disoriented, at which time, President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, seated to Hu’s right, calls over an aide and seems to instruct him to have Hu removed.
Shortly afterward, another aide appears to help move Hu along. Hu speaks briefly to Xi, who nods in response, and pats Premier Li Keqiang, a close ally, on the shoulder before exiting in front of the world’s media.
Throughout the incident, almost all of the hundreds of senior Communist cadres assembled in the vast Great Hall of the People sit in stony silence looking straight ahead.
The 79-year-old former leader has been reported to be in poor health.
But there have been no rumors that he might become a target of Xi, who has previously gone after retired officials on corruption charges, though never one as high-ranking as Hu, discounting the likelihood of a political purge.
China’s tightly controlled state media did not report the incident, but the official Xinhua News Agency tweeted in English several hours later — as speculation raged overseas — that Hu was in poor health and needed to rest. Independent mentions of the incident have been scrubbed from the Chinese internet, over which the government maintains tight control.