The Washington Times | by Bill Gertz | October 22, 2022
Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was escorted out of a major session of the Chinese Communist Party on Saturday in a humiliating display of internal tensions within the ruling communist regime in Beijing.
The dramatic scene played out live on state television where the 79-year-old leader was seated next to current Chinese President Xi Jinping and was then approached by a security guard.
The leadership drama came shortly before Mr. Xi was to be declared Chinese Communist Party secretary for an unprecedented third term.
Communist Party meetings like the one in Beijing are usually tightly scripted and planning is made years in advance to assure the meetings project an image of unity among leaders.
Chinese propaganda outlets and pro-Beijing trolls on Twitter spread word that the incident was the result of Mr. Hu suffering an illness.
Chinese censors also removed all references to Mr. Hu in Weibo social media posts, Reuters reported from Beijing.
Later Chinese state media coverage of the meeting did not include the expulsion that took place as journalists entered the Great Hall of the People to cover the party meeting.
However, China analysts said the expulsion most likely was the result of Mr. Hu planning to vote against Mr. Xi’s third term and his removal was intended to promote the fiction that Mr. Xi’s consolidation of power was unanimously supported by the party.
Since coming to power in 2012, Mr. Xi has launched a massive campaign of political purges that analysts say was intended to eliminate any rivals for power.
The purge netted thousands of Chinese officials and Party functionaries and was carried out under the guise of countering corruption, an endemic problem in China.
China expert Gordon Chang said Mao Zedong in the past once attempted to compel absolute obedience but in the process nearly destroyed China.
The apparent purge of Mr. Hu came as a surprise.
During his speech opening the 20th Party Congress a week ago, Mr. Xi paid homage to past Chinese leaders and their versions of Marxism-Leninism with Chinese characteristics. That included a reference to Mr. Hu’s variant described in the speech as a “scientific outlook on development.”
Mr. Hu’s life after stepping down from power was not without controversy. In 2016, his chief of staff, Ling Jihua, was sentenced to life in prison on charges of financial corruption.
• Bill Gertz can be reached at [email protected].