Politburo member Xie Fei has died at 67, dealing a further blow to the political fortunes of the so-called Guangdong Faction. Xie had been suffering from leukaemia for more than a year. The Guangdong native lost his substantial post of party secretary of Guangdong soon after the 15th Party Congress in 1997. In early 1998, he became a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. Before he became seriously ill, he was briefly in charge of preparations for the Macau handover. Guangdong officials said Xie's departure from the rich province was the first sign that President Jiang Zemin, the head of the so-called Shanghai Faction, had taken steps to crack down on the Guangdong Faction. A Jiang protege, Li Changchun, took Xie's place as party boss of Guangdong in early 1998, after which a number of local cadres were removed for reasons including economic crimes. Xie was at one time rumoured to have been investigated over the business dealings of his associates. His health had stabilised since the summer and his Politburo colleagues were surprised to see him appear at the rostrum of Tiananmen Square during the October 1 festivities. 'I don't want to miss this grand occasion,' Xie reportedly told his friends on the rostrum. 'It's unlikely I will witness another one.' Zeng Qinghong, an alternate member of the Politburo and a Jiang protege, is expected to take Xie's place as a full Politburo member. During his seven years as Guangdong's No 1 official, Xie was instrumental in pushing policies to catch up with Hong Kong and other strong Asian economies. He also followed the pro-market instructions of Deng Xiaoping when the late patriarch toured Guangdong in 1992. Yet Western businessmen and diplomats said he was more cautious than his illustrious predecessor, noted reformer Ren Zhongyi. Moreover, negative phenomena such as corruption and smuggling proliferated in Guangdong through the 1990s, which, analysts said, provided Beijing with a pretext to remove Guangdong officials unwilling to toe the central line.