Qiao Zonghuai, the son of one of China's most respected diplomats and a former vice-director of the Xinhua office in Hong Kong, has been named a vice-minister of foreign affairs, Xinhua announced yesterday. Mr Qiao, 57, was China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva before the appointment. He is the son of Qiao Guanhua, a foreign minister in the 1970s. Qiao Zonghuai was made a vice-director of the Xinhua office in Hong Kong in 1987. He was widely tipped to succeed then-Xinhua director Xu Jiatun. His frank, open style won praise and friends in Hong Kong political circles. However, Mr Qiao's fortunes suffered in 1989 when Mr Xu sided with pro-democracy students and fled to the United States. Mr Qiao left Xinhua in 1991 and was named China's ambassador to Finland later that year. Despite the ambassadorship, he lost his position as an alternate member of the Communist Party's Central Committee a year later. He was voted out of the senior echelon at the 14th Communist Party Congress. Alternate members are senior cadres shortlisted for promotion to the Central Committee - the party's power centre. The disqualification sparked speculation that Mr Qiao had fallen out of favour with the party leadership. He spent two years as ambassador to Finland before he became the envoy to North Korea - a transfer widely seen as a snub. His return to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing is considered recognition of his efforts in the UN. His lobbying was credited with warding off foreign attacks on China's human rights record.