Han Zheng

Shanghai mayor tipped to quit for Anhui party post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am

Han Zheng's transfer is seen as face-saver after pensions scandal

Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng will quit his job in the mainland's financial hub and be transferred to become the Communist Party secretary in Anhui province, according to sources.

Mr Han will leave Shanghai soon, according to a source with links to the municipal party establishment, citing a decision by the party's central leadership.

Shanghai television showed Mr Han attending two meetings yesterday. In one meeting, he talked about the city's economic work for the rest of the year.

His transfer to Anhui, a landlocked province in the east, is part of a nationwide reshuffle of central government ministries and regional governments following the party's five-yearly national congress, which installed a new leadership lineup and set broad policy goals.

In theory, Mr Han's new appointment is neither a promotion nor a demotion because his existing and future jobs have the same status as a ministerial-level official in the mainland hierarchy.

However, the mayoralty of the mainland's financial centre carries much more political weight and suggests a bright political future. Almost all of Mr Han's predecessors have gone on to key jobs in Beijing, including former president Jiang Zemin , former premier Zhu Rongji , National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo and late vice-premier Huang Ju .

They went from mayor to Shanghai party chief and then became senior national leaders.

Mr Han was appointed Shanghai's acting party secretary in September last year, soon after the high-profile sacking of party boss Chen Liangyu for his involvement in a major social security fund scandal and other illegal activities.

Mr Han's appointment to acting party chief was seen as a significant career boost, with analysts believing he would be named permanent party secretary because an acting party secretary is nearly always confirmed.

However, Mr Han was not given the top job, and former Zhejiang party boss Xi Jinping became the city's party secretary in March. Mr Xi pole-vaulted to the apex of political power last month, joining the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, and Yu Zhengsheng , a Politburo member, was appointed to replace Mr Xi as Shanghai party chief.

'It is a political setback, but a face-saving departure for Mr Han,' a Shanghai source said.

A native of Zhejiang, Mr Han took over as Shanghai mayor in 2003 when he was 49, becoming one of youngest provincial-level leaders. He rose through the government and party ranks in Shanghai, where he has spent his entire career.

An economics graduate from Shanghai's East China Normal University, he worked in the chemical and rubber industries, but mainly in party posts.

Though Mr Han has also served as secretary of the Shanghai Communist Youth League, the local branch of President Hu Jintao's key power base, the mayor owes a greater allegiance to the so-called Shanghai Gang, led by Mr Jiang.

Mr Han was also considered a close ally of Huang, who died of cancer early this year. Observers partly attributed Mr Han's declining political fortunes to Huang's death because he lost his only supporter in the innermost circle.

Sources said that although Mr Han was not found to be involved in Chen's scandal, central leaders believed the mayor, as second in command, should have found out what was going on and acted to stop the abuse of the city's pension fund.

Mr Han should also take some of the blame for making bullish comments about the hot property market, defying the central government's macroeconomic policy, they said.