Shanxi governor 'for culture post'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am

Shanxi governor Yu Youjun is widely tipped to become minister of culture in one of the reshuffles shaping the political lineup ahead of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress in October.

The appointment would be a surprise to many because Mr Yu was in a difficult position after the exposure of slavery in Shanxi brick kilns. But he has apparently made the most of an intensive media campaign to battle the negative publicity, including several public apologies.

Some sources had expected him to be promoted to Shanxi party secretary - a post that may have given him more political capital for further promotion. But others said the new appointment would be a safer route for his career as he would no longer be implicated in scandals surrounding the kiln slavery and mine safety.

The former Shenzhen mayor, 54, is known for his public relations skills and popularity with the media.

A former secondary school teacher, Mr Yu used to head the propaganda departments of the Guangzhou municipal government and Guangdong provincial government.

In a surprise transfer, he moved to the backwater province of Shanxi in 2005 as governor.

Mr Yu demonstrated his superb media skills by turning the slavery scandal into a propaganda campaign that lauded his diligence in handling the crisis and humility in apologising to the public.

Despite the spin, many children remained missing and only grass-roots officials were punished.

Speculation is rife that former Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong, who was sidelined as a scapegoat for the Sars epidemic in Beijing, would replace Mr Yu as Shanxi governor.

Mr Meng, a protege of President Hu Jintao, was demoted to deputy director of the office in charge of the South-North Water Diversion project after the epidemic. His appointment would mark the restoration of another official following a crisis-linked demotion.

Former health minister Zhang Wenkang was sacked over the handling of Sars, but was appointed vice-president of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation children's charity organisation in 2005.

Xie Zhenhua, former head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, was sacked after a chemical spill in the Songhua River in 2005, but was appointed deputy minister of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission this year.