China’s ruling party amends constitution

Former Chinese president Hu Jintao left the closing session of a key Communist Party meeting abruptly on Saturday, when the nation’s new leadership was expected to be elected.

Videos that surfaced on social media showed two men approaching Hu, who was seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Following a brief conversation, one of the men appeared to urge the 79-year-old to leave and grabbed him by the arm. Hu seemed reluctant to comply with the request.

Another official seated next to the former president then seemingly joined the conversation and said something to him. At one point, Hu appeared to be trying to take some documents located between him and Xi, but the Chinese president resisted this attempt. Otherwise, the incumbent leader hardly reacted to the development at all.

As he left his seat on the stage of the Great Hall of the People, Hu appeared to address Xi once again, eliciting a brief reply and a nod. The former president then left the hall, accompanied by two officials.

Some Western commentators were quick to describe the move as a “purge,” while Western media reported that the former leader had been “escorted out” of the party congress.

According to the Chinese media, Hu had to leave the session due to some health issues. The former president “was not feeling well” during the meeting and was accompanied by his staff to a room next to the hall to have a rest, Xinhua news agency reported.

Hu had insisted on attending the session despite having some health issues and “taking time to recuperate recently,” the agency added.

Some commenters on social media noted that Hu had also been accompanied into the meeting “a few days ago.”

The development comes as the Chinese Communist Party is expected to decide whether to allow Xi to continue in his role. If he remains, he would lead his party and country for a third term, which is unprecedented in China’s modern history.

Up to now, the reins of power in the country have been handed to a new generation of leaders at the end of the outgoing leader’s second term. According to some media reports, Hu, who himself stepped down at the end of his own second term some 10 years ago, was opposed to allowing Xi to stay in his position for longer. Hu was the Chinese president between 2003 and 2013, and was succeeded by Xi.

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