THE reformist governor of Sichuan, Mr Xiao Yang, yesterday attempted to distance himself from his former ally, the ousted communist party boss, Mr Zhao Ziyang. Mr Xiao, who came under the media spotlight earlier this year for his outspoken praise of Mr Zhao's ''contributions to reform'', stressed yesterday that those contributions were in the past and that Mr Zhao had subsequently ''made mistakes''. Asked if he was the lone National People's Congress deputy who had voted for Mr Zhao in Saturday's presidential election, Mr Xiao laughed and said: ''That wasn't me. Although I respected comrade Zhao Ziyang quite a lot in the past, I'm not the one who cast the vote. ''Comrade Zhao Ziyang made many contributions to reform, but he then made some mistakes and no longer had a government position.'' But he said Mr Zhao's accomplishments in agricultural reform which he pioneered with former NPC chairman Mr Wan Li in the late 1970s and urban reform which laid the ground work for the ''socialist market economy'', should still be recognised. Mr Xiao, who until late last year was the party boss of Chongqing, declined to say whether he thought Mr Zhao should be given a position in the central government or in the Sichuan provincial government. ''I'm not really in a position to decide if comrade Zhao gets a government job again,'' he said. Despite playing down his association with Mr Zhao, the governor firmly allied himself with the new standard-bearer of reform, Vice-Premier Mr Zhu Rongji, saying he enjoyed ''very good relations'' with the former mayor of Shanghai. ''I was a classmate of Zhu Rongji at Qinghua University, we were both in the electronic machinery department, as was [the mayor of Shanghai] Mr Huang Ju. ''I greatly respect Zhu Rongji because he is very capable, witty and pragmatic.'' Asked about the controversial Three Gorges hydro-electric project which many fear will devastate huge tracts of Sichuan's arable land, Mr Xiao said he supported the idea in principle but stressed it was still in the planning stage. The Sichuan government had not devoted many resources to the project and had not resettled ''one single person'' in preparation for the dam's construction. This compares markedly with the neighbouring province of Hubei, which stands to benefit most from the project, where about 60,000 people have already been relocated. Sichuan had only been experimenting with migration in small isolated areas, Mr Xiao said, adding that the work of resettlement had not begun. Several technical problems, such as sedimentation, had to be resolved before the project could start, the governor said.