Former China president Hu Jintao appears in public for first time since mysterious exit

Mr Hu Jintao was escorted away from his seat next to President Xi Jinping halfway through the closing ceremony of the Communist Party's congress on Oct 22, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Former Chinese president Hu Jintao returned to the public eye for the first time since his mysterious exit from the closing ceremony of the Communist Party’s congress six weeks ago.

He attended a tribute for former president Jiang Zemin at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing on Monday, according to China Central Television.

Mr Hu, 79, could be seen walking unsteadily while accompanied by an attendant at the event, which was held to remember the late Mr Jiang before his body was taken to be cremated.

On Oct 22, Mr Hu was escorted from his seat next to President Xi Jinping halfway through the closely choreographed closing ceremony of the twice-a-decade congress. He looked confused then as he was led away by an attendant, sparking intense speculation over what happened to him. 

The official Xinhua news agency said in a tweet hours later that Mr Hu felt unwell and needed to rest, but that “now, he is much better”.

Still, many wondered whether Mr Xi had used the moment to signal that there were no more obstacles to his authority in leading the world’s No. 2 economy.

Having secured an unprecedented third term in power at the congress, the Chinese President packed the party’s top decision-making bodies with allies.

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“Hu’s presence at official ceremonies honouring Jiang shows Xi trying to create an image of unity that bolsters his position as leader,” said Mr Neil Thomas, a China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk advisory and consulting firm. 

“Hu’s reappearance lends somewhat more credence to the theory that his ejection from the party congress was not an orchestrated purge but, rather, an unplanned event that resulted from some kind of health incident,” Mr Thomas said.

He added that the government has not provided enough information about the incident at the congress to be certain of what happened. BLOOMBERG

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