Hu Jintao

Liu Yandong: A capable and popular princeling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

Liu Yandong , 62, the head of Communist Party's United Front Work Department, boasts a background both as a Communist Youth Leaguer and so-called princeling, a child of a party veteran.

With her promotion to the Politburo, she is also the highest ranking female official on the mainland and the body's only female member, following the retirement of vice-premier Wu Yi , the 'Iron Lady' of Chinese politics.

There is widespread speculation about whether Ms Liu can match her charismatic predecessor as the female face of otherwise male-dominated mainland politics.

Ms Liu is one of the few central government officials well known in Hong Kong. As the head of her department, one of her major tasks is to reach out to key members of the Chinese community in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and abroad to try to exert influence on the party's behalf.

She made a very clear impression on the public in 2004 when she visited Hong Kong for the first time as department chief. In marked contrast to the rather dour front presented by most mainland officials, Ms Liu projected a consistently stylish appearance as she headed from function to function.

Part of her appeal is also her ability to understand Cantonese. She is also friendly, hard-working and competent, according to the Hong Kong delegates of mainland consultative and legislative bodies who have dealt with her.

'Ms Liu is an amiable and self-confident person,' National People's Congress deputy Ip Kwok-him said. 'She is very familiar with Hong Kong's affairs.'

Ms Liu is also in charge of control over the so-called Eight Democratic Parties and the party's mass organisations, such as its labour unions and women's and youth groups. She is widely considered a 'Leaguer', having serving a decade from 1982 as secretary of the Communist Youth League Central Committee's secretariat.

She was directly responsible to Hu Jintao when he headed the secretariat between 1982 and 1985, and has been considered a Hu protege since then.

As the daughter of former vice-minister of agriculture Liu Riulong , she is also regarded as a princeling. She attended a school for the children of senior cadres in the 1940s and 1950s started by Deng Liujin , the mother of Vice-President Zeng Qinghong .

Earlier this year, she was one of the leading contenders to become Shanghai party secretary after the downfall of Chen Liangyu . 'Former president Jiang Zemin blocked Liu's rise,' a party source said.

The source said this could be for only one reason: she was too close to Mr Hu.

The move is ironic, considering that in the late 1920s, Ms Liu's father introduced Mr Jiang's stepfather to the party, laying the foundations for the former president's own career.