Beijing, Nov. 5 (Reuters): China’s Communist Party put the finishing touches to a generational leadership change and kicked out a disgraced banker today after silencing one of its most outspoken critics in the final days before a pivotal congress.
The party’s 325-strong Central Committee also approved a change to the party constitution, allowing private entrepreneurs to join for the first time, at its pre-congress plenum, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The moves highlighted the party’s drive to clean up official corruption and maintain rigid political control while adapting itself to an increasingly pluralistic and capitalistic society — major themes of its 16th congress due to open on Friday.
President Jiang Zemin is expected to retire as party chief at the congress, along with other leaders over 70, but to maintain power by installing allies in key posts and having his political theory made official doctrine, analysts say.
The plenum in the Soviet-style Jingxi Hotel was shrouded in secrecy, but Chinese sources said it finalised the most sweeping leadership change since purges that followed the crackdown on protests around Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Police have thrown a security cordon around Beijing while propaganda chiefs threaten to punish leaks with jail sentences, spotlighting the sensitivity of what has been billed as the first orderly succession in Communist Chinese history.
Last evening, more than 10 policemen detained Fang Jue, a frail but outspoken government official turned democracy activist, from his home in central Beijing, his younger sister Liu Jing said. “The 16th party congress doesn’t have anything to do with us,” she said. “His actions have all been legal. They’re the ones who have broken the law by not telling his family anything about his whereabouts.”
In 1998, the former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences called for direct elections, freedom of the press and the right to form political parties and free trade unions.
Later, he was jailed for selling oil import quotas illegally when he was a government planner in the southern city of Fuzhou.
Fang was released from jail in July and has been beating the drum of reform ever since. Local police declined to comment.
China frequently rounds up dissidents and punishes wayward officials in the runup to sensitive meetings like the congress. Xinhua said the plenum decided to strip banker Wang Xuebing of his alternate membership in the Central Committee and expel him from the party.
“Wang Xuebing took advantage of his position to embezzle and accepte bribes,” it said. Wang, a protege of Premier Zhu Rongji, was sacked as head of the China Construction Bank in January over problem loans made during his tenure as head of the Bank of China.