Aircraft carrier's pioneer Xu Zengping wins a popular vote

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 5:02am

Nearly two dozen members of the top advisory body yesterday voted for one of its members, a former mid-level army officer who bought the nation's first aircraft carrier, to be appointed to the body's standing committee.

Xu Zengping's name was not on the list of endorsed candidates for the 299 standing committee positions, and he will not be appointed to the committee.

I'm so excited, so delighted, so high-spirited and so proud of it

Although Xu's support base in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - just 23 members out of nearly 2,200 - was not enough to win him a seat, it suggests a level of dissent within the advisory body. Xu is a former PLA senior colonel who became a businessman after leaving the army in 1983.

As chairman of Macau-based Chong Lot Travel Agency, Xu travelled to Ukraine and bought the half-built Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag at a bargain US$20 million in 1998, wanting to turn the 300-metre vessel into a floating casino. Xu spent four years trying to bring the Varyag to Dalian, in the northeastern province of Liaoning before he succeeded in 2002.

The vessel was then berthed at the port for three years, and it took seven more years to refit before it was delivered to the PLA Navy. It is now called the Liaoning. When asked to comment on the Liaoning, Xu told the Hong Kong Commercial Daily: "I'm so excited, so delighted, so high-spirited and so proud of it."

Other top alternate members not on the list were Nobel Literature Prize laureate Mo Yan, who won seven votes, while film director Feng Xiaogang , and Hong Kong-born actor Jackie Chan had four votes each. All three are political advisers.