Jia Qinglin

Jia Qinglin predicted to take over city's affairs

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

Jia Qinglin, the nation's fourth-ranking official, is tipped to be the next state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs, following the unveiling of the leadership lineup yesterday.

Analysts and politicians said Mr Jia, 67, was likely to take over from retiring vice-president Zeng Qinghong to head the leading group of the Communist Party on Hong Kong affairs, because he had more involvement with the city than many other members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Over the years, the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference has received Hong Kong's CPPCC members on their visits to Beijing. His most high-profile involvement with Hong Kong issues was a trip to the city last year just ahead of the ninth anniversary of the handover. The visit marked the third anniversary of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

But some politicians remain sceptical about Mr Jia's political skills.

Doubts hung over his career as corruption scandals surfaced in connection with the mainland's most wanted man, Lai Changxing .

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the stain on Mr Jia's reputation would not affect Beijing's co-ordination with the city given that President Hu Jintao had tightened his grip on Hong Kong issues.

'It doesn't really matter who will take over from Mr Zeng,' he said.

'Mr Hu set up the co-ordination group to oversee Hong Kong affairs after Beijing was shocked by the massive protest in 2003. He had just taken over from [then-president Jiang Zemin ] as the party secretary in 2002 and was not familiar with the city's issues. But he has become a key figure in making decisions related to Hong Kong.'

He said the central government would continue to support Hong Kong with economic incentives, and the lineup of Beijing officials in charge of the special administrative region would remain basically unchanged.

Liao Hui, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, is expected to retain his influence over the two cities, with his re-election as a member of the Central Committee.

Although United Front Work Department chief Liu Yandong missed out on becoming a Politburo Standing Committee member, she did make it onto the Politburo and is expected to be involved in the city.

While saying it was hard to predict who would take over from Mr Zeng, Wong Kwok-kin, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress, said he did not want to see Mr Jia take on the job.

'We think that his style of working is a bit sluggish and not decisive enough. He doesn't seem to be very familiar with Hong Kong affairs, nor has he much feeling for the city ... he doesn't seem to be a very talented person,' Mr Wong said.

Dong Likun , a senior researcher at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Research Institute, said another potential candidate was NPC chairman Wu Bangguo , because of his familiarity with the Basic Law.

But Hong Kong NPC delegate Ip Kwok-him ruled out Mr Jia or Mr Wu to take over the city's affairs.