Rivalry between President Jiang Zemin and National People's Congress (NPC) Chairman Qiao Shi has intensified over how the case of disgraced Beijing party boss Chen Xitong should be handled.
A source said while both top cadres agreed investigations into Chen's alleged economic crimes should be completed before the 15th Party Congress in October, each wanted to have the dominant say on how to run the case.
The source said: 'Jiang hopes to take personal credit for cracking the case, which has been held up for two years. It will convince party members of Jiang's commitment to fighting corruption and help consolidate his position at the 15th congress.' The source said Mr Qiao wanted the successful handling of the Chen affair to strengthen the authority of the party's legal establishment, of which he is head.
Mr Qiao has indicated that the secretary of the party's Commission on Legal and Political Affairs, Ren Jianxin, should make the final decisions on the case. Mr Ren, President of the Supreme People's Court, is a Qiao protege.
Political sources in Beijing said Mr Jiang and Mr Qiao had already begun a 'protracted struggle' over personnel appointments to be decided at the congress.
It is understood both are pushing different candidates for the key positions of the heads of the Commission on Legal and Political Affairs and the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection. The incumbents, respectively Mr Ren and Wei Jianxing, are due to retire or be transferred.
Candidates recommended by Mr Jiang hail from Shanghai, including the secretary of the municipal party committee, Huang Ju.
Mr Qiao, a former head of the legal commission, is lobbying for the Minister of State Security, Jia Chunwang, and the alternate member of the Politburo, Wen Jiabao.
Western diplomats in Beijing said the two longstanding rivals had also fought over control of Hong Kong policy.
Mr Jiang, who will be in Hong Kong in early July, was trying to prevent Mr Qiao from making an appearance.
Mr Jiang reportedly indicated there would be a vacuum in Beijing if too many Politburo members went to Hong Kong for the handover.
But Mr Qiao insisted he should visit Hong Kong, given the NPC had authority over matters, including interpretation of the Basic Law.