The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hu packs key posts with comrades

Beijing, Jan. 19 (Reuters): An ally of China’s new Communist Party chief Hu Jintao was named mayor of Beijing and six other supporters were promoted to key provincial posts, giving notice of his increasing clout, state media and analysts said today.

The weekend appointments were the latest sign that Hu was consolidating power. He took over from Jiang Zemin as party chief in a generational leadership change at the 16th party congress in November, the Communists’ first orderly succession since 1949.

Beijing vice-mayor Meng Xuenong, 53, was appointed mayor of the capital and Qian Yunlu, 58, was named head of the provincial legislature of southwestern Guizhou today.

Both men once worked under Hu in the Communist Youth League and are considered by China watchers to be his allies.

Mayor Meng was openly supportive of Hu at a news conference hours after his appointment when asked about his own Youth League background.

“Comrade Hu Jintao is just, honest and upright,” he said. “He is not swayed by personal considerations and left a very deep impression on me. This is probably his personal charm and what Youth League cadres should learn,” the mayor added.

The weekend appointments were another significant step in what analysts say will be a long road to building power.

“Hu is slowly showing his strength. He is not that simple. He will slowly consolidate power,” said Jin Zhong, a veteran China watcher and publisher of Hong Kong’s Open monthly magazine.

Hu, 60, is due to replace Jiang, 76, as state president at the national legislature’s annual session in March.

Jiang packed the party’s upper echelons with his own allies and is expected to remain chief of the military, wielding power from behind the curtain like his predecessor, Deng Xiaoping. Though still in Jiang’s shadow, Hu has tried to make his mark by promoting several allies to key posts and by media exposure.

In a highly publicised bid to burnish his and the party’s image, Hu also has taken up the cudgels for China’s poor — one of the few non-controversial areas where he can make a difference without the risk of stepping on his predecessors’s toes.

Yesterday, five other Hu allies were appointed to key provincial government and parliamentary posts. Li Keqiang, 47, one of China’s youngest regional leaders, became parliamentary chief of Henan, the most populous province with 95.6 million people.

Li already had been named Henan party boss even though in his previous post he had to take administrative blame for a disco fire in Luoyang city in December 2000 which killed 309 people.

Also under Li’s watch, thousands of rural residents were infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, in a blood-selling scandal in the 1990s when government-backed clinics failed to properly clean needles.

“Toeing the party line is more important than the fire or the AIDS scandal,” said Jin, the publisher.

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