PROTEGES of the late liberal party chief Hu Yaobang have been picked to head the Communist Youth League, traditionally the training ground for top party and government positions. The 13th congress of the league, which closed in Beijing yesterday, selected a seven-member party committee headed by First Secretary Mr Li Keqiang. The bulk of the new leadership, like Mr Li, 37, are veteran league cadres who were close to such liberal chieftains as Mr Hu, a league boss in the 1950s, and his successor, Mr Hu Qili, a one-time politburo member. Chinese sources said the results of the elections showed that the so-called Communist Youth League faction of liberals had retained their influence in Chinese politics. More than one quarter of the ministers endorsed at the National People's Congress (NPC) in March had league affiliations. And league affiliates have filled important positions in municipal and provincial administrations. The promotion of Mr Li, who is pursuing a doctorate in economics at Beijing University, has marked him out as one of the fastest-rising stars in the party. A native of Anhui Province, Mr Li joined the Communist Party in 1976. He distinguished himself in the league organisation at Beijing University, and at league headquarters. Sources close to the league said Mr Li was a protege of Mr Hu Qili, who was partially rehabilitated earlier this year after having been demoted soon after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. ''The decision to elevate Li was taken relatively late as he was not elected to the 14th central committee of the party last October,'' a source said. ''However, Li was made a standing committee member of the NPC in the spring''. Another member of the new league committee, Mr Yuan Chunqing, has a similar background to Mr Li's. A law graduate of Beijing University and head of its students' union, Mr Yuan, 41, has worked for the league since 1980. Mr Liu Peng, 41, who also made the committee yesterday, had been head of the league organisation in Sichuan province. Chinese sources said soon after his tour of southern China in early 1922, patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping again gave instructions that the league, briefly disgraced after June 4, 1989, should regain its status as the training ground for the top leadership. A politburo meeting soon afterwards confirmed that the party should again ''elevate league cadres as leaders''. The sources said the fact that all seven new league leaders were highly educated and in their late 30s or early 40s showed the organisation had been able to propagate new talent. The average age of the 275-member league central committee elected on Sunday was 33.9, and 85.8 per cent have a college education or above.