Bo Xilai

Mayor appears likely to escape being purged

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan chaired the meeting yesterday morning at which the Communist Party leadership's decision to remove his boss, Bo Xilai, was announced, in what is being seen as a sign that he is unlikely to be purged soon.

Huang, 60, has been widely seen as a close ally of Bo, and speculation was rife about his political future following the abrupt announcement that Bo had been removed as the southwestern municipality's party chief.

But Xinhua reported later in the day that party organisation department head Li Yuanchao's 'important speech' announcing the change in Chongqing's leadership was made at a meeting chaired by Huang.

Huang underscored his allegiance to party general secretary Hu Jintao at the meeting, Xinhua reported, saying he would 'unswervingly support the central leadership's decision on Wang Lijun and decision on the leadership change in Chongqing' and 'would resolvedly keep in line with the central party leadership led by Hu'.

Wang, Bo's former right-hand man whose apparent defection attempt at the US consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan, early last month triggered a political earthquake in Chongqing, was also officially removed from his vice-mayor position at yesterday's meeting.

Huang also pledged his 'whole-hearted support' for incoming Chongqing party secretary Zhang Dejiang, saying he would make 'earnest efforts' to maintain stability in Chongqing, Xinhua said.

Before he was promoted as one of Chongqing's vice-mayors in 2001, Huang rose through the ranks in Shanghai, the traditional power base of former party general secretary Jiang Zemin, who is believed to still wield significant clout in mainland politics.

Huang has often been seen as aiding Bo's push for a so-called Chongqing model of development - a combination of egalitarian economic growth and conservative ideological control, as well as a ruthless crackdown on organised crime which critics say sometimes ignored due process. However, Bo's sudden fall from grace raised questions about Huang's future and that of the Chongqing model.

Analysts say Bo's downfall will almost certainly spell the end of the Chongqing model, but they differ over whether Huang will also be held responsible.

In a recent interview, Huang said he rushed into the consulate in Chengdu to persuade Wang not to defect. Wang eventually walked out, on his own volition.

Renmin University political scientist Mao Shoulong said Huang was largely safe, at least for the time being, as the central leadership was concerned that too many changes would upset stability in Chongqing. Also, Huang had mainly been tasked with economic work in Chongqing for the past few years and the municipality had recorded double-digit growth rates, he added.

However, Mao said the Chongqing model was probably dead.

Another Renmin University politics professor, Zhang Ming, said Huang was a technocrat who would serve any boss. 'Unless he is found with serious problems such as corruption, he'd be fine,' Zhang said. 'So we might have to wait and see what conclusions the investigators [into the Wang case] will reach.'

Liu Junning, a political analyst based in Beijing, said the Chongqing model was finished. 'Such a model failed many years ago in China and [Bo and Huang] have only proved again that it could not succeed,' he said.