Rumour-plagued Zhang Guangning gets top post with steel firm

Ex-Guangzhou party chief gets top post, making it unlikely he is being probed over Asian Games

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 3:30am

Former Guangzhou party chief Zhang Guangning has gone from denying reports of his suicide last month to starting a new life at the helm of the mainland's second-largest steelmaker Angang Steel.

The State Council and the Organisation Department, the party patronage office, said yesterday that Zhang had been appointed chief executive, chairman and party boss of the steelmaker based in northeastern Liaoning province.

The appointment appears to be the strongest evidence that rumours Zhang is under investigation for his handling of the 2010 Asian Games are false. If the story was true, Zhang would be unlikely to get a top job in a vital state industry.

The Asian Games rumour was one of several to plague Zhang, 59, since he stepped down as Guangzhou party secretary in December. Two weeks ago, internet chatter that had him jumping out of a window had grown so strong that he issued a statement saying: "I'm still here."

Zhang also made a pair of public appearances with local party officials - his first in months - providing a strong signal he is in the clear. In May, he was selected by the Guangdong party committee to attend the upcoming national party congress.

History Professor Yuan Weishi, of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said he learned of Zhang's appointment last week. Yuan said he had heard that President Hu Jintao had met Zhang before he started at Angang.

"Zhang would not get a meeting with Hu if he was really in deep trouble," Yuan said.

Yuan blamed the internet gossip about Zhang on a lack of transparency about the government, how its leaders were chosen and how public money was spent. Making information available would help restore public confidence in officials, he said.

Zhang had a long career in the steel industry before turning to politics. He started as a steel worker at Guangzhou Iron and Steel Enterprises in 1971.

He held various senior positions at the company, eventually becoming party secretary in 1994. Two years later, he was named Guangzhou's deputy mayor.