Li Keqiang

Unusual fanfare as ex-premier pays high-profile visit to Shenyang

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2006, 12:00am

Former premier Li Peng stepped back into the spotlight this week in an unusually high-profile visit to Shenyang , Liaoning province .

In stark contrast to former leaders who usually keep post-retirement visits low profile, Mr Li was given a reception and publicity similar to that shown to incumbent state leaders. He was flanked in public by Liaoning party secretary Li Keqiang , governor Zhang Wenyue and railway minister Liu Zhijun during the three-day trip.

Although former president Jiang Zemin and former premier Zhu Rongji have occasionally visited provinces and, in Mr Jiang's case, temples after their retirement, their trips have rarely been publicised by mainstream media.

Mr Li's choice of company for the unusual public appearance was also intriguing - railway minister Liu has been dogged by a series of negative media reports following the downfall of his brother, Liu Zhixiang .

Liu Zhixiang, former deputy director of the Wuhan Railway Bureau, was given a suspended death sentence for a corruption conviction involving 40 million yuan and for hiring a hitman to kill the person who tried to expose his crime.

The lenient sentence sparked an outcry from mainland media and speculation in mainland online chat rooms and overseas political tabloids that Liu Zhijun's prospects had been tainted by his brother's scandal.

Mr Liu, 52, is seen as an associate of Mr Li and was once described by analysts as a rising star.

According to the Shenyang Daily, Mr Li has 'deep feelings' for northeast provinces because he spent 11 years there in the 1950s and 1960s.

He toured to the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the Northeast China Grid Company and an expo park in the city.

Mr Li is one of the most prolific writers of the retired leaders and he gave copies of four books he wrote to the Northeast China Grid Company during his visit to the facility.

Mr Li retired as NPC chairman in 2003.