Vice-President Zing Qinghong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am

A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines

Vice-President Zeng Qinghong is visiting Hong Kong this weekend.

What's his story?

Born in Jian , Jiangxi , in July 1939, he was one of China's 'princelings' - children of leading revolutionaries. His Red Army veteran father Zeng Shan was vice-mayor of Shanghai and became minister of internal affairs. His mother Deng Liujin was one of the 27 women who survived the Long March.

He has a pedigree background, then?

Apart from his family background, he also had close ties to former president Jiang Zemin . Mr Zeng, an engineer, joined the Communist Party in April 1963. A protege of Mr Jiang, he served as his adviser from the mid-1980s when the former president was Shanghai party secretary. Mr Jiang took him to Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and he remained one of his closest advisers. Mr Zeng became vice-president in March 2003, replacing Hu Jintao when he was elected president.

What brings him to Hong Kong?

He is attending the official opening of Hong Kong Disneyland.

So he'll be meeting Mickey and Minnie and Donald?

It's not just the big-eared mice and a weird-looking duck he will meet. He will encounter other creatures even stranger to Beijing cadres - Hong Kong democrats. He's due to dine with Martin Lee Chu-ming and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, among all the other legislators, at a dinner at Island Shangri-La tonight.

So a mainland vice-president breaking bread with our legislators is something new?

You can say that again. Since 1989, relations between Beijing and the democrats in Hong Kong have been practically non-existent. However, Beijing has been cautiously edging towards closer ties since the July 1 march in 2003 when half a million Hong Kong people took to the streets. A month after the march, Mr Zeng said he would be willing to meet democrats 'if required'. Beijing recently agreed to allow all legislators to visit Guangzhou on September 25 and 26. Several democratically minded legislators have been turned back at the border over the years. Mr Zeng's dinner with the legislators is seen as a major ice-breaker in relations between Hong Kong and Beijing.

How long will he stay?

He arrived yesterday and leaves tomorrow. He is the most senior mainland figure to visit Hong Kong since Premier Wen Jiabao visited families of victims of severe acute respiratory syndrome and sealed a trade accord in June 2003.

So, is he a regular visitor to Hong Kong?

Not really. He came here for the handover in 1997 and came back for the first-anniversary celebrations, but this is his first official visit in seven years.