Outgoing governor has come back from political dead before

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am

Meng Xuenong's political comeback after being sacked during the 2003 Sars outbreak was one of the most talked about recent dramas in mainland political circles.

Indeed, until yesterday, Mr Meng was one of several figures who had seen their political fortunes resurrected after resigning or being sacked for their roles in various crises.

Even as Mr Meng resigned yesterday over the mudslide that left at least 254 people dead, observers said the move would only usher in a new round of speculation over his future, given his close links to President Hu Jintao and his abilities.

Beijing-based political scientist Hu Xingdou said: 'The most important thing in mainland political circles is connections. Officials are not returned by elections, and so basically it's a life-long career.

'In general, they would not be deprived of all posts, but it is likely that in a case like Meng Xuenong's, he might be posted to a more low-profile, less attention-getting position, as was the case before he became Shanxi governor,' said Professor Hu. He also noted that the public spoke favourably of Mr Meng's performance, despite the various crises on his watch.

Mr Meng was demoted to deputy director of the office in charge of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project after being sacked from his post as Beijing mayor in 2003 for his mishandling of the Sars outbreak.

His resurrection in August last year, when he was named deputy secretary of the Communist Party's provincial committee for Shanxi, surprised many and was seen as a sign of Mr Hu's strengthened position ahead of the 17th National Party Congress in October.

He became the acting governor of Shanxi in September before officially assuming the post in January this year, taking over from Yu Youjun , who has become the minister of culture.

The frequent and often deadly mining accidents in Shanxi, the mainland's coal production centre, make it a political minefield.

The past few years have seen other cases of officials emerging from the shadows of a disgraced past.

Former National Bureau of Statistics chief Qiu Xiaohua recently made a comeback as a senior researcher for China National Offshore Oil Corp after disappearing from public view for two years amid a bigamy scandal and links to the massive pension fund scandal that toppled former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu .

Former health minister Zhang Wenkang , sacked along with Mr Meng over the handling of Sars, was appointed vice-president of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a children's charity, in 2005.

Xie Zhenghua , former head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, was sacked after a chemical spill in the Songhua River in 2005, but was appointed deputy minister of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission last year.