Beijing surprises with five new ministers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2007, 12:00am

The central government named five ministers yesterday in a sweeping reshuffle ahead of a key Communist Party meeting in October.

The timing surprised some observers, since personnel changes had not been expected until March.

Xinhua said the NPC Standing Committee had approved Jin Renqing's resignation as finance minister and his replacement by Xie Xuren , the director of the State Administration of Taxation. Mr Jin, 63, has been named a deputy head of the State Council's Development Research Centre, a government think-tank.

An NPC spokesman said Mr Jin, finance minister since March 2003, had asked to resign for 'personal reasons'. He will keep his ministerial ranking.

The South China Morning Post reported this week that Mr Jin's departure from the Ministry of Finance was linked to a sex scandal in which a number of senior government officials had been implicated. The official announcement yesterday appeared to show Mr Jin was not the subject of a corruption investigation; he was still described as a 'comrade' by the State Council's spokesman.

The new minister for state security is Geng Huichang , formerly deputy state security minister. He replaces Xu Yongyue , 65, who had held the post for nine years.

The Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence - which sets policy for weapons procurement and helps manage the space programme - will also get new blood. Zhang Qingwei , second in command of China's manned space programme, will take over from Zhang Yunchuan . At 46, Zhang Qingwei will be the youngest minister.

Ma Wen , deputy secretary of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, will head the Supervision Ministry, led by Li Zhilun until his death. She will be one of only three women ministers.

Yin Weimin moves up from vice-minister of personnel to head the Personnel Ministry.

Of the five, all but Mr Xie are natives of Hebei province .

The NPC Standing Committee did not announce the replacement of Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng . However, China News Service reported that Shanxi Governor Yu Youjun had been succeeded by Meng Xuenong , a former Beijing mayor sacked in 2003 over the Sars crisis. It had been reported Mr Yu would replace Mr Sun.

Hong Kong-based commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the reshuffle showed officials would pay with their jobs for mistakes.

Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk