Former Deng aide out of top PLA post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 1999, 12:00am

Deng Xiaoping's most trusted aide and former secretary has been removed from a senior post in one of the PLA's top four organs.

A Beijing source confirmed that General Wang Ruilin was no longer first deputy director of the General Political Department, one of the four top organs of the PLA.

It is likely that he has been removed after reaching the retirement age for such a position when he turned 70 last month.

Rumours about his removal first surfaced on Tuesday when General Wang did not show up at a department plenary session attended by four deputy directors and new recruit Lieutenant-General Zhang Shutian, whose presence aroused further suspicions.

General Wang, who served as secretary to late paramount leader Deng for more than 40 years, is believed to have been replaced by General Zhou Ziyu, the de facto executive department deputy director since his appointment in 1993.

Military analysts believe General Wang will retain his Central Military Commission membership without a portfolio, following a precedent set in 1989 when retired General Hong Xuezhi was removed from his post of deputy secretary-general but continued to make public appearances as a military commission member.

Since January 1, General Wang has appeared at two PLA functions as the seventh member of the elite commission, ruling out the possibility that he was removed because of ill health or for disgracing the party, an analyst said.

His replacement, 64-year-old General Zhou, previously held party and PLA positions, in particular in the areas of security and discipline, a military source said.

General Zhou succeeded General Wang in 1993 as head of the Commission for Discipline Inspection.

He is also a member of the Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs.

General Zhang, 59, who is expected to replace General Zhou, was removed from the position of political commissar of the People's Armed Police (PAP) in the wake of the murder of a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress by a PAP bodyguard in February 1996.

The leadership reshuffles were decided at last month's clandestine Central Military Commission meeting.

Further senior-level changes in the PLA were expected, including a new political commissar for the PLA air force to replace 65-year-old General Ding Wenchang, said the military source.