Zhao's close aide hits back as a capitalist

A CLOSE aide of former Chinese Communist Party chief Mr Zhao Ziyang has scored a comeback as the head of a major corporation dealing in property.

Mr Rui Xingwen, a former party chief of Shanghai, will soon set up a semi-official company with at least 10 million yuan (HK$13.39 million) of investment from the State Planning Commission (SPC), according to informed sources.

A right-hand man of Mr Zhao's, Mr Rui, who was also a member of the policy-setting Central Committee Secretariat, lost all his positions after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

In mid-1991, Mr Rui, together with such other Zhao aides as Mr Hu Qili, was ''partially rehabilitated'' when they were given ''honorary'' government positions.

Mr Rui was made a vice-minister of the SPC, and Mr Hu, a former politburo member, a vice-minister of machine-building and electronics.

However, it is understood that especially with the reduction of the responsibilities of the SPC, Mr Rui has not assumed a significant portfolio.

Sources close to Mr Rui, 65, said with his good connections in both Beijing and Shanghai and his retention of the vice-ministership for some time, he could turn his economic clout into political influence.

''Rui Xingwen will recruit a large number of former advisers to Zhao, many of whom have since June 1989 abandoned officialdom for business,'' a source said.

''Such a grouping could one day launch a comeback to political power.'' Meanwhile, there is talk in diplomatic circles in Beijing that Mr Hu might also make a comeback.

Diplomatic sources said the Ministry of Machine-Building and Electronics Industries, which was set up in 1988, might split into two.

Mr Hu, a graduate in mechanical engineering from Beijing University, is mentioned as a front-runner to head one of the new ministries.

At the 14th party congress last October, Mr Hu, 63, retained his membership in the Central Committee.

Mr Hu has also been active as head of the Leading Group on Electronics Industry in Shanghai.