Chongqing municipal people's congress chairman, Chen Cungen, has been removed from the southwestern municipality's Communist Party standing committee, local media said yesterday. It is the latest twist following the dismissal as party secretary Bo Xilai just under a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile, a campaign spearheaded by Bo that encouraged the singing of 'red' or revolutionary songs, which was also criticised as a throwback to the days of the Cultural Revolution, appears to be being gradually phased out.
The head of the Ningxia region's party organisation department, Xu Songnan, 56, had been appointed to the standing committee in Chen's place, Cqnews.net, a news website affiliated with the municipality's party propaganda department, said. Earlier, mainland media reports said Xia Zeliang, the party head of Chongqing's Nanan district, and Yubei district police chief Wang Pengfei had been placed under investigation.
A source close to the Chongqing municipal government said yesterday that Chen had been one of Bo's favourite subordinates in Chongqing and had introduced and implemented a campaign to encourage party cadres to work in rural areas that had been likened to Maoist campaigns during the Cultural Revolution.
The campaign, led by Chen, 60, when he was the head of Chongqing's party organisation department, saw nearly 300,000 cadres sent to grass-roots villages to live, work and eat alongside rural residents since the second half of 2009.
The source said Chen was unlikely to be the last senior official in the municipality to be sidelined or purged in the political turmoil triggered by the attempted defection of former Chongqing police chief and vice-mayor Wang Lijun, Bo's right-hand man, in early February. They said some leading propaganda figures might also be targeted sooner or later. Chen was also among senior officials who met Wang in the US consulate that day.
On the red-songs front, the city's propaganda department head, He Shizhong, told lower-level heads from across the municipality at a meeting on Monday that there was room for improvement in a range of activities, including the reading of classic literature, the telling of revolutionary stories and the spreading of mottoes, the Chongqing Daily reported yesterday.
He said these activities should reduce their emphasis on stage performances and differentiate themselves from political campaigns.
He was also quoted as saying that one of the priorities for Chongqing Cable TV was to boost its ratings and influence.
The broadcaster's ratings and revenue dropped significantly when Bo ran the city after it was ordered to drop popular prime-time series and commercials to make way for programmes extolling revolutionary ideals. Chongqing Cable TV will now run 'red' programming once a week rather than every day. Station officials have also been quoted as saying that it would soon begin accepting commercials.
Chongqing cadres have, since 2009, been sent to live, work and eat among villagers in a campaign reminiscent of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution