Beijing to break silence on Gao Yan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 October, 2002, 12:00am

The government will soon announce the reason for the disappearance of the managing director of the State Power Corporation, who has not been seen since August 29, says an official newspaper.

The 21st Century Business Herald gave the most detailed account so far in a mainland publication of Gao Yan, 60, who is widely believed to be under investigation.

Last week, officials at his company were unable to say where he was or whether he still held the post of managing director.

Set up on January 16, 1997, State Power is China's biggest energy firm. It had assets at the end of 2000 of 1.8 trillion yuan (HK$1.7 trillion), accounting for 72 per cent of the country's power assets. Last year it was ranked 77th in Fortune's list of the world's 500 biggest firms and had sales of 400.3 billion yuan.

If Mr Gao has been arrested, the issue has strong political ramifications.

His deputy general manager is Li Xiaopeng who is the son of Li Peng, chairman of the National People's Congress. At next month's Communist Party's 16th Congress, Li Peng is due to step down as one of the seven members of the Politburo's Standing Committee.

Analysts see State Power as one of the power bases and are asking why Mr Li was unable to protect one of his proteges.

Mr Gao, appointed a member of the party's central committee at the 14th congress, has had a distinguished career in the power industry and the party, starting as deputy director of the Electricity Industry Bureau of Jilin province in 1975, becoming its director and party chief in 1985 and deputy governor and deputy party chief of Jilin province in 1988.

From March 1992 he was governor of Jilin and then party chief of Yunnan province from June 1995, until his appointment as chief of the State Power in August 1997.

The newspaper said Mr Gao submitted his resignation as managing director on August 2 last year, which the State Power board accepted, while insisting that he stay on as honorary managing director. It gave his executive post to Zhao Xizheng.

The newspaper did not say what Mr Gao was being investigated for but gave broad hints. One was a buy-back in September 2000 at 30 fen a share of one-yuan shares in the mother company, in what could constitute 'a loss of state assets', a serious charge.

Another was widespread changes among more than 20 senior personnel, which were frozen on June 10 this year by an order of the State Council. Such changes, under Mr Gao's direction, 'could have influenced the smooth implementation of reform in the power sector'.

At the end of last year, State Power had debts of 762 billion yuan, of which just 4.3 billion yuan were bonds and the rest bank loans.

On August 24 last year, it signed a three-year agreement with the China Construction Bank, which promised a substantial level of funding and financial service. Among those present at the signing was then president Wang Xuebing, arrested in January this year for financial malpractice.