Li resumes some duties after illness
By WILLY WO-LAP LAM
PRIME Minister Mr Li Peng has made a partial recovery from an unspecified illness, but he is not fit enough to assume his usual duties.
A New China News Agency report said Mr Li, who is believed to have fallen ill on April 24, yesterday chaired an executive meeting on China's policies on science and technology.
However, the 65-year-old head of government failed to make the ensuing National Work Conference on Science and Technology, which was attended by senior leaders including Vice-Premiers Mr Zhu Rongji and Mr Li Lanqing.
And while the work conference was the lead item on last evening's CCTV news bulletin, the executive meeting chaired by Mr Li was not televised, and the Chinese audience had no visual confirmation of his recovery.
Reading out the NCNA report, the CCTV anchor said ''at the instructions of premier Li Peng'', Mr Zhu delivered a keynote address on the nation's technology policy.
The single-sentence report about Mr Li having chaired the executive meeting came at the end of the NCNA dispatch, which contained lengthy excerpts from the address by Mr Zhu.
Neither the NCNA nor CCTV mentioned Mr Li had been sick or that he had made a recovery of some sort.
In its report on the same conference, the semi-official China News Service did not even mention Mr Li.
In his address to the conference, Mr Zhu repeated the standard line of patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping that ''technology is the first productive force'' in the country.
A Western diplomat said: ''Zhu Rongji will continue to be acting premier until Li Peng makes a full recovery.'' He said developments yesterday confirmed reports circulating in Beijing that Mr Li had suffered a mild heart attack, and that even though his condition had improved, doctors had asked him to work at most a few hours every day.
A Chinese source said the authorities were not sure how to handle the ''public relations aspects'' of Mr Li's sickness as well as his convalescence.
''Except for events like war or power struggles like the Cultural Revolution, no major Chinese leader who is still in his 60s has been out of the public limelight for as long as Li Peng has,'' the source said.
''Depending on the speed of his recovery, Li may not be able to work full time for the coming weeks.'' But the source said there was no foundation to speculation that Mr Li had fallen out of favour with Mr Deng.
He said the patriarch last month praised the work of several State Council departments, which included units directly under Mr Li's supervision.