China’s former leader Hu Jintao leaves congress due to illness

China’s former leader Hu Jintao, 79, left the closing ceremony of the Communist Party of China’s congress yesterday after reportedly feeling sick. The meeting of the CCP marked the setting of the third term for current president Xi Jinping.

According to The Straits Times, the state-sponsored Xinhua news agency tweeted late last night that the former leader was “not feeling well during the session.”

“His staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better.”

The news agency reported that Hu insisted on attending the closing ceremony despite feeling unwell. But, he was unexpectedly escorted off the stage at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing after foreign and local journalists were led into the auditorium. Hu was seen on video exchanging words with Xi before being escorted from the ceremony. The awkward clip went viral after being posted to Twitter, gaining more than nine million views so far.

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His exit spurred heated debate among worldwide viewers as some think his leaving was part of a move to publicly purge him due to his allegiance to a different political party from Xi Jinping’s.

Meanwhile, Xi is breaking the record of term limits by recently being confirmed as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party for a third term. According to The Guardian, Xi was unveiled as general secretary of the party, tilting the country back toward a one-man rule after decades of sharing power among the elite. The long-speculated reappointment signalled Xi’s successful consolidation of power in China’s capital. He has retained the role as chair of the military commission, controlling the People’s Liberation Army. But, it is expected that he will regain the less powerful title of president next year.

The breaking of the previous two-term limit for holding office in China’s government occurred back in 2018. Xi led the abolishment of term limits on leaders, paving the way for him to potentially become a leader for life. Anti-corruption purges during his tenure and this week’s affirmation of his reappointment have ensured that there will be little opposition remaining.

Such “purges” included senior rivals of Xi, who were in the 205-member central committee, being sent into retirement. The 20th Party Congress, which is the most important meeting of the ruling CCP’s five-year political cycle, had about 2,400 delegates gather to officially approve major party reshuffles and constitutional changes before its official close yesterday.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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