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Stalwart becomes Beijing mayor

BEIJING yesterday elected Communist Party stalwart, Mr Li Qiyan, to head the municipal government, replacing the outgoing mayor, Mr Chen Xitong, who becomes the city's party boss.

Mr Li, 55, is said to be a strong disciplinarian, having worked in the fields of internal security and party building in Beijing for most of the last decade.

As such, Mr Li is not expected to tolerate any moves towards greater political liberalisation within Beijing during his five-year stewardship.

However, Mr Li, who is believed to be Mr Chen's personal choice as successor, is considered a moderate when it comes to economic policy.

''He will wholeheartedly endorse the party's current economic policy, but will never lead from the front, or he will be seen to be dragging his heels,'' a local political observer said.

In a short speech following his election yesterday, Mr Li said he was ''determined to study [Deng Xiaoping's] theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, uphold the party's basic line without wavering and work together with the people to elevate the capital's modernisation and construction to a new level''.

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The mayor of Beijing has traditionally been a senior figure within the party hierarchy and Mr Li is no exception. He is a member of the national party's Central Committee and deputy secretary of the Beijing municipal party.

Mr Li, originally from Qihe in Shandong province, joined the party at the age of 23 when he was still a history student at Beijing Teachers College in 1961.

From 1963 to 1982, Mr Li worked as a division head of the municipal party's rural work department before serving a two-year term as party secretary of Pinggu county, an agricultural district to the east of Beijing.

In 1984, he was recalled to the city to head the municipal party's organisation committee and was appointed deputy party secretary in 1987.

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As well as choosing a new mayor, the Beijing People's Congress in its closing session yesterday morning also elected four new vice-mayors.

Four existing vice-mayors, Mr Zhang Baifa, Mr Wang Baosen, Mr Lu Yucheng, and the only high-ranking woman in the municipal government, Ms He Luli, all retained their seats.

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Mr Duan Qiang, who is only 36, was one of the newly elected vice-mayors, making him one of the youngest, if not the youngest, senior government officials in the country.

The other three vice-mayors are Mr Li Runwu, Mr He Shaoguan and Mr Meng Xuenong, who is also in his late 30s.

The 62-year-old former vice-mayor Mr Zhang Jianmin was elected Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Beijing People's Congress.

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The congress yesterday also elected 62 delegates to represent the capital in the National People's Congress which is scheduled to start in mid-March.

The delegates included Premier Mr Li Peng, former Beijing party boss Mr Li Ximing, Mr Chen, the world-famous actor Ying Ruocheng, and the conservative president of Beijing University, Mr Wu Shuqing.

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