Election rules come under fire

SEVEN candidates - including two newcomers - will take part in a competitive election on Monday to select six vice-governors for the free-wheeling Guangdong province.

However, a Hongkong deputy to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress said he was disappointed about the selection criteria set by the authorities, saying it did not reflect the true spirit of competition in an election.

Seven candidates will run for the vice-governorships, including incumbents Mr Liu Weiming, Mr Lu Zhonghe, Mr Zhang Gaoli, Mr Lu Ruihua and Ms Li Lanfang.

The two newcomers are the Communist Party Secretary of Foshan city, Mr Ou Guangyuan, and the Secretary-General of the Guangdong provincial government, Mr Zhong Qiquan.

Incumbent Mr Ling Botang, who has been a vice-governor since 1985 is expected to retire after the congress.

Governor Mr Zhu Senlin is the only candidate nominated for re-election, although the election regulations stipulated that there could be more than one candidate for the post.

Mr Cheung Ching-wan, first deputy chief editor of the Hongkong-based pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po, said yesterday the election of vice-governors did not reflect the spirit of competitive elections.

He said the current policy required the delegates to elect at least one woman, one non-Communist Party member and one ethnic minority candidate.

In addition, the delegates must also elect a 45-year-old vice-governor to ensure smooth transition of power to younger cadres in future.

Mr Cheung said Mr Ou would undoubtedly be elected as a result of such requirements, because he was the only 45-year-old candidate, as would Ms Li, the only female candidate.

This would not be fair to the other candidates, who were ''competent and qualified''.

Mr Cheung said there should be more than one candidate for each category of candidates to ensure genuine competition.

During a sub-group discussion on the candidates, many delegates expressed the view that the ideal candidate should be ''selfless'' and should possess the ''moral integrity'' to lead the government.

The ideal candidates should also be proficient in public affairs and willing to get in touch with the masses, Mr Cheung added.

He noted that, over the past few terms, female vice-governors had been relatively weak in working ability compared with their male counterparts.

In Hongkong, veteran China-watcher Mr Johnny Lau Yui-shui said the election indicated Beijing was losing its grip on personnel matters as local officials began to exert greater influence on the country's economy.

''While Beijing still commands some control over the local governments, it can no longer dictate to them like in the old days,'' Mr Lau said.

Meanwhile, it is believed that the Chairman of the Guangdong congress Standing Committee, Mr Lin Ruo, Provincial Higher People's Court President Mr Mai Chongkai, and Provincial Procurator-General Mr Wang Jun will be re-elected.