Power struggle key issue at impotent body's meeting
JASPER BECKER in Beijing
A fight over top positions is expected to generate the most interest when a powerless mainland body opens its annual meeting on Tuesday.
Li Ruihuan seems certain to continue as chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the upper house of the National People's Congress. But many of the standing committee's 25 vice-chairmen will retire and be replaced.
Sources said controversy had arisen over the appointment of Hu Qili, 69, who is expected to retire from his post as Minister of the Electronics Industry and get a top position either in the CPPCC or the NPC. Hardliners reportedly do not want Mr Hu - who had been a member of the standing committee of the Politburo and is regarded as a liberal who was forced out of power after 1989 - to become a vice-chairman of the NPC.
The new CPPCC is also expected to expand its contingent of representatives from Hong Kong which already has leading SAR businessmen as vice-chairmen.
Although the reshuffle of the body's leading positions is supposed to lead to its rejuvenation, sources said some elderly vice-chairmen would continue to serve as no one with sufficient prestige had been found to replace them.
These include 94-year old writer Ba Jin, who also continues as chairman of the Chinese Writers' Association despite being too infirm to play an active role in either organisation, and Qian Weichang, 85, honorary chairman of the China Democratic League.
However, some of the very elderly, perhaps up to 11, are expected to finally retire.