Political jockeying for Chongqing's top Communist Party post appeared to have delayed the mega-city's party congress until next month, local sources said yesterday, following official confirmation of the abrupt postponement.
Both Shandong party chief Jiang Yikang and his Hunan counterpart Zhou Qiang have been discussed as possible contenders for the powerful post held by Bo Xilai until national authorities removed him on March 15 amid a far-reaching political scandal involving the murder of a British businessman.
Since Bo's removal, the top post in the southwestern metropolis of nearly 30 million has been occupied by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang . Zhang's Chongqing role has been widely seen as transitional. It was expected that whoever took over from him would make an appearance at the end of the party congress.
The event, initially due to be held later this month, would now be held in mid-June, said a source close to the Chongqing government.
The source said the delay came amid intense wrangling between members of various factions for the top post, which could also mean a spot on the Politburo for the appointee.
'How can the congress be kicked off when ... the new party secretary has not yet been decided?' the source said.
Regional authorities across the mainland are holding similar organisational meetings in preparation for a generational leadership change in Beijing in the autumn. Guangdong, Guizhou , Shaanxi , Hainan , Jilin , Heilongjiang and Gansu have already finished their party congresses, while others are now ongoing or expected to start in coming days. The Chongqing congress is particularly important as it will decide who will lead the city's top decision-making organ, the municipal party committee, following Bo's spectacular downfall.
Zhou Yong, Chongqing's deputy propaganda chief, confirmed the postponement yesterday, but denied that political intrigue played any role.
'As far as I've learned, the party congress will be held in June,' he said. 'There is seemingly no special reason for the delay.'
The revised schedule was casually revealed by a report about a local district's preparation for the party congress posted on Wednesday by the state media site, People.com.cn.
In a high-ranking meeting with top municipal officials on March 19, Zhang said the party congress would be held in May, the Chongqing Daily reported.
Aside from the possible change at the top, other leadership changes might also take place. Such changes may include the retirement of the city's propaganda chief, He Shizhong, 60, who had close ties to Bo and was expected to step down immediately after Bo's exit, a Chongqing media source said.
Guan Haixiang, now the deputy chief of Chongqing's united front work department, was expected to succeed He as propaganda chief, the media source said.
Having spent 15 years of his career with the Communist Youth League, a political power base of President Hu Jintao , Guan served as the Chongqing public security bureau's party chief, between Bo's sacking of former police chief Wang Lijun and Bo's removal from the Politburo on April 10.
Meanwhile, Chongqing police chief He Ting will head a delegation of the city's police force to attend a national police award ceremony today in Beijing. Sixteen teams and 25 police officers from Chongqing will be among award recipients.