ALMOST a third of deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) have opposed the appointment of Mr Li Tieying as a State Councillor - despite his selection by the Chinese Communist Party. In an unprecedented act of defiance during balloting for members of China's cabinet in the Great Hall of the People yesterday, 722 legislators voted against Mr Li and 137 abstained. Mr Li, 56, who had just stepped down from the helm of the State Education Commission, was confirmed in his new position, however, with 2,037 out of a total of 2,896 votes. Under Chinese law, a simple majority was required for confirmation of ministers, and under the system of ''same candidate elections'', the deputies had no choice other than Mr Li. The degree of opposition to him was remarkably larger than those displayed against other members of the State Council, China's cabinet, most of whom were elected with more than 2,800 votes. Deputies yesterday also expressed grave reservations about his concurrent nomination as chairman of the State Commission for Restructuring Economy, replacing Mr Chen Jinhua. Only a total of 2,132 endorsed his candidacy, while 655 voted no, and 109 abstained. The low votes for the former education chief raised eyebrows in an otherwise lacklustre round of elections of the four vice-premiers, eight state councillors, a secretary-general and heads of the 41 ministries. The rubber-stamping of the cabinet marked the end of a set of elections to elect the new leadership of China at the ongoing NPC session, which closes tomorrow. Under the Chinese constitution, the cabinet was nominated by Prime Minister Mr Li Peng who was re-elected for another term on Sunday. Foreign Minister Mr Qian Qichen topped the count of votes among the other nominees with the support of 2,883 deputies. Only nine were against and four abstained. Mr Qian got even more votes, 2,888, for his re-appointment as Foreign Minister, with eight against and no abstentions. The Foreign Minister, who is 60, has won high appraisal for his role in seeking a breakthrough over Western isolation of China in the aftermath of the June 4 crackdown. According to delegates, Mr Li Tieying met strong opposition from NPC delegates because of the ''alarming'' state inside and outside the country's classrooms. A Hongkong NPC deputy, Mr Ng Hong-mun, who is an educationist, said the education sector might have put the blame on Mr Li for the chronic problems in education, which dominated group discussions among deputies. These included funding and the phenomenon of teachers going into business. Other Chinese sources said Mr Li, who is believed to be a protege of patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping, had antagonised the bulk of the nation's intellectuals with his ruthless purge of ''bourgeois-liberal elements'' in the wake of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Mr Li, widely seen as a conservative in spite of his connections with Mr Deng, had been tipped as a potential candidate for vice-premiership. He became a State Councillor and head of the State Education Commission in 1988. Mr Ng said: ''The opposition would not have been so large if it was simply because of his conservative image. He was mainly criticised for his weak leadership.'' Sichuan provincial governor Mr Xiao Yang maintained that the number of votes in support of Mr Li ''was not too small''. ''Everyone is satisfied with the slate of candidates as a whole. There might be some [dissenting] opinions over certain candidates. But as a whole, they have our trust,'' he said. There have been few surprises concerning candidates with relatively reformist reputations. Mr Zhu Rongji, for example, was confirmed as Vice-Premier with 2,826 votes. There were only 51 no votes and 19 abstentions. Mr Hu Qili, who fell from grace after the June 4 massacre, was promoted to head the new Ministry of Electronics Industry with a total of 2,823 votes. Ministers who attracted a relatively low number of votes included State Councillor Mr Li Guixian and Minister of Radio, Film and Television, Mr Ai Zhisheng. Mr Li, the Governor of the People's Bank of China, received only 2,487 votes in support of his candidacy, with 323 against and 86 abstentions. Similarly, only 2,459 supported his nomination for another term as head of the central bank with 358 against and 79 abstentions. A total of 2,695 deputies endorsed Mr Ai's candidacy, with 158 against and 43 abstentions. A source said Mr Ai has been seen as a leftist and conservative for his preferences for political ideology in mass media. Another slightly controversial official was Ms Peng Peiyun, the only female State Councillor and head of the State Family Planning Commission. The official given the task of fighting the uphill battle against population growth in a country of 1.13 billion people received 2,684 votes, with 161 against and 51 abstentions. On the new cabinet, Mr Xiao, the Sichuan governor, said the line-up was stronger in work experience in the regions and professional expertise. Mr Ng, the Hongkong deputy, said the high count of votes going to the vice-premiers showed the degree of approval for the top aides of the premier. Among the new ministers were former deputies to the retiring ministers, including Mr Doje Cering, who replaced Mr Cui Naifu as Minister of Civil Affairs. Mr Cui said the promotion of his deputy had no direct relation with his background as a Tibetan. His work performance was more important. He hoped that his successor would promote social security in the country as the poor had become poorer as China developed its market economy. Mr Cui added that only about 30 million out of 100 million elderly people on the mainland have joined the social security scheme.