Former China president Hu Jintao returns to public eye for first time since mysterious exit from congress

Former Chinese president Hu Jintao, who was mysteriously removed from the Communist Party’s congress in October, reappeared in public on Monday morning.

Mr Hu attended a tribute for former president Jiang Zemin at the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, according to the China Central Television.

The channel reported that the 79-year-old former president was seen walking unsteadily along with an attendant at the event.

Mr Jiang died of multiple organ failure on 30 November and was cremated on Monday.

This is the first time since his exit from the congress in October that he has appeared in public.

On 22 October, Mr Hu, who led China for 10 years before Xi Jinping assumed the presidency, was seen being physically escorted out of the closing ceremony of the twice-a-decade gathering.

The 79-year-old was sitting next to his successor Xi Jinping for the closing ceremony of the party gathering when aides approached and, after some initial reluctance on Mr Hu’s part, escorted him away.

As he left, the former president exchanged a word with Mr Xi and patted the shoulder of his former protegé, Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

At the time, it raised questions over the weekend of whether Mr Xi had deliberately had his predecessor ejected in a symbolic display of power.

Later, an alternative theory was floated based on a video by Channel News Asia, which claimed that the 79-year-old Mr Hu had become confused and needed medical assistance.

There was massive speculation as to what had happened to him when he was escorted away from the congress.

State-sponsored Xinhua News Agency reported that day that Mr Hu had felt unwell and needed to rest. But it didn’t stop the speculation that Mr Xi was trying to send a powerful message by removing his predecessor.

Mr Hu served two five-year terms as China’s president from 2003 to 2013 – the full limit a politician could serve as the country’s leader until Xi Jinping’s recent move to amend the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution to grant himself a third.