Guangdong makes changes at top levels

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2008, 12:00am

Executive vice-governor Tang takes new post

Guangdong executive vice-governor Tang Bingquan is stepping down and was elected yesterday as a vice-chairman of the Guangdong Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, sources say.

Mr Tang, 58, has been in charge of the Guangdong-Hong Kong Joint Co-operation Conference since 2003. He was expected to bow out of provincial government after a new governor and vice-governor were elected this Thursday, sources said.

They said Zhong Yangsheng, 59, another executive vice-governor, would probably not remain in office either and might take a position in a semi-official economic association.

Asked whether he would visit Hong Kong after taking up his new position in the provincial CPPCC, Mr Tang, who often spoke on behalf of Guangdong on Hong Kong affairs, said yesterday that he believed there would still be ample opportunity to maintain the close relationships he had built in both government and business circles in Hong Kong.

His concern for Guangdong-Hong Kong co-operation 'will remain as strong as before', Mr Tang said after the closing session of the conference.

Sources did not confirm Mr Tang's successor, but said Xiao Zhiheng and Wan Qingliang , the secretary general of Guangdong's Communist Party Committee and the party boss of Jieyang city , respectively, were likely to be promoted as vice-governors in the elections.

Before heading to Guangdong in 1994, Mr Xiao was a member of the standing committee of the Central Commission of China's Communist Youth League from 1990 to 1994, while Mr Wan had been secretary of the Guangdong Youth League Committee between 2000 and 2003.

Age and rank are main factors when officials are considered by party organisation authorities for promotion or retirement. Huang Liman, the present chairwoman of the Guangdong People's Congress (GDPC), who will be 63 next month, is also set to be replaced on Thursday because she has reached mandatory retirement age. Sources said her successor might be Ou Guangyuan, the present vice-chairman of the GDPC.

Sources also said that if Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua was replaced in Thursday's election, the strongest possible candidate to succeed him would be Guangzhou party boss Zhu Xiaodan , one of Guangdong's three alternative members of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

The two others are Liu Yupu and Hu Zejun. While Liu was only recently named Shenzhen's new party secretary, Mr Hu - who is now head of Guangdong Organisation Department - was considered lacking leadership experience in running of local government.

But analysts say no matter who becomes governor this week, Guangdong's general governance and political climate will change little, despite long-running discussions of the central government potentially using the southern province as a laboratory for experimental political reforms.

Just last month, new Guangdong party boss Wang Yang raised discussions regarding the 'thought-liberation movement', which was widely covered in local media.

An analyst who is also a provincial CPPCC delegate said that compared with 30 years ago when small economic achievements could salvage the careers of senior officials such as Mr Wang, even if they were 'politically incorrect', the situations in Guangdong and elsewhere on the mainland were totally different now.

'Mr Wang will have to take both economic and political risks when trying to carry out his new economic policies,' he said.

'Even if Mr Wang, or maybe also President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, are thinking about pushing forward liberal political reforms, they will be criticised by opponents if the progress is accompanied by slow economic growth or even stagnation.'

There was a strong possibility that pressure for economic growth would ultimately sideline Mr Wang in his attempts at political reform in Guangdong, he said. Reform-minded provincial leaders across the country face a similar conundrum, he said.

'The biggest challenge for Guangdong in the coming five years is still how to retain the rapid pace of growth experienced over the past three decades while overcoming more complex issues of social unrest,' he said.