Jiang Zemin

Vice-premier poised to make comeback after cancer diagnosis

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 May, 2006, 12:00am

Vice-Premier Huang Ju, China's sixth-highest-ranking official, who was diagnosed with cancer, is planning to make a public appearance early next month to quell speculation about his health and reaffirm his political standing, mainland banking sources said.

Mr Huang, 68, was reportedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during a routine medical check before the Lunar New Year, and has since remained out of the public view.

Despite official confirmation in March that he was ill but recovering, rumours have persisted that his health is worsening - in part because pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to treat and has a high death rate. The sources said Mr Huang had made an unexpected recovery and had partially resumed his duties but they warned it would still take many months before he could resume his full schedule.

Mr Huang's aides are discussing the possibility of allowing him to make a public appearance to quell speculation in the overseas media that he could be forced out of politics partly because of his illness.

The sources said the leadership had given subtle signals to prepare for Mr Huang's partial comeback.

Earlier this month, Xinhua reported that Mr Huang had sent a congratulatory message to a mainland financial publishing house on its anniversary.

If confirmed, his partial comeback could help restore the delicate political balance, as Mr Huang is widely seen as a close ally of former president Jiang Zemin .

Mainland officials are bracing for a major leadership reshuffle, which would begin with provincial governments from next month and culminate in top leadership changes at the 17th Communist Party congress next year. Many analysts believe President Hu Jintao would use the opportunity to promote his supporters and sideline Mr Jiang's proteges to consolidate his power.

The sources said Mr Huang's comeback would also have implications for financial reforms, because as executive vice-premier his key responsibilities cover banking and finance.