Xi Jinping’s ‘humiliation’ of party veteran shows ‘dictatorial power’

Hu Jintao escorted out of China party congress

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Xi Jinping’s harsh “humiliation” of Hu Jintao, his predecessor as China’s President, sent a clear signal that he was in complete control of both the Chinese Communist Party and the nation as a whole, a UK-based expert has said. Professor Steve Tsang told Express.co.uk the incident demonstrated Xi now effectively held “dictatorial power” – and that when it came to leadership, it was now his way or nothing.

Hu, 79, Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, was seated to the left of Xi at the closing ceremony of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress, during which Xi secure a third term in office.

Extraordinary footage showed Hu being led off the stage of the main auditorium of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing by two stewards

Prof Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, was in little doubt the move was personally sanctioned by 69-year-old Xi.

He told Express.co.uk: “We can only go by the video clip publicly available, as we don’t know the inside story.  

“But we do know certain things about Chinese politics. The Congress is the most important event for Xi in his decade-long rule.  

“If the escorting out of Hu Jintao was not ordered by Xi, it would have been humiliating for Xi to let it happen. Someone would have to pay for such a failure.  

“No one has been punished so far, so I tend to think Xi ordered it.”

Asked why, Prof Tsang stressed there had been no real need to carpet Hu.

He said: “Hu actually handed over all offices and power to Xi smoothly in 2012, and in his retirement has not interfered with how Xi ran China. Hu is also obviously in poor health.

“But Hu remains the ‘godfather’ of the once mighty Youth League Faction within the CCP, and his approach was one of collective leadership, in contrast to Xi’s strongman approach.“

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Given that Xi had also removed all Youth League representation at the top policy making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, from which two prominent Youth League leaders, Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, were forced to step down at 67, Xi had clearly worked to reduce the Youth League faction to “irrelevance”, Prof Tsang said.

He added: “By the humiliation of Hu, and the removal of Li and Wang, Xi has sent a powerful message: there is only one leader in China and there is only one way forward – Xi and his way. 

“No one should pay attention to other fractions or ‘former leaders’.

”Xi is effectively showing that he now enjoys dictatorial power, and everyone should embrace his leadership and his way.”

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The clip shows a steward repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat, drawing concerned looks from officials close by.

Hu then puts his hand on a sheet of paper placed on Xi’s folder but Xi quickly puts his hand on the sheet.

China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu, seated to Hu’s right, gives the former president’s folder to a steward, wiping his own head with a cloth after Hu finally stands up.

Looking distressed, Hu appears to resist leaving as the stewards escort him out, turning back to his seat at one point.

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On his way out, he exchanges words with Xi and pats Premier Li Keqiang, seated to the right of Xi, on the shoulder.

Video of the incident was widely shared on Twitter but could not be found on China’s heavily censored social media platforms. Twitter is blocked in China.

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo, a few social media users alluded to the incident by commenting on old posts featuring Hu, a common tactic used to evade cyberspace censors.

By Saturday evening, however, the comments section of almost all Weibo posts containing Hu’s name were no longer visible.

Late on Saturday, a tweet by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said: “Xinhuanet reporter Liu Jiawen has learned that Hu Jintao insisted on attending the closing session of the Party’s 20th National Congress, despite the fact that he has been taking time to recuperate recently.”

A second tweet later added: “When he 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.”

There was no mention of Hu on Xinhua’s domestic Weibo postings.

The once-in-five-years congress concluded with amendments to the party’s constitution that cements the core status of Xi and the guiding role of his political thought within the party.

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