Xi Jinping ally appears sidelined with NPC committee role

Xia Baolong was entrusted to oversee global events in Zhejiang province, but also led a hardline crackdown on Christians in the city of Wenzhou

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 11:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 11:55pm

A close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been assigned to a largely nominal position at the nation’s top lawmaking body, despite widespread expectations he might take on higher roles.

Xia Baolong, 64, was appointed deputy director of the Environmental and Resources Conservation Committee on Thursday. The position is largely a titular one with limited decision-making power at the National People’s Congress.

The appointment effectively caps Xia’s career, as he will reach the retirement age for his government level next year. Xia stepped down as Communist Party boss of Xi’s power base Zhejiang province on Wednesday. A Zhejiang source earlier told the South China Morning Post Xia had a chance to succeed 69-year-old Meng Jianzhu as head of the party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

What next for the heavy-handed cross toppler close to Xi Jinping?

Xia became known for taking a hardline approach to governing in 2015 after he ordered a campaign to tear down hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crosses from the roofs of churches in the city of Wenzhou, known as China’s Jerusalem due to its large number of Christians. The campaign was later expanded across the province.

Xia’s watch, Zhejiang became entrusted by the top leadership with hosting some of the nation’s most important global events, including three sessions of the World Internet Summit, with Xi personally joining one, and last year’s G20 Summit, which was held in China for the first time.

Chinese presidential ally steps down as Zhejiang chief ahead of power reshuffle

Xia was Xi’s deputy when Xi was party secretary of Zhejiang from 2003 to 2007.

Many of Xi’s former subordinates at Zhejiang have been given some of the party’s most important positions. Cai Qi, who worked with Xi in both Fujian province and Zhejiang, is now mayor of Beijing and a front runners to enter the 25-strong Politburo in the upcoming power reshuffle this fall.