Pan Yue, a maverick thinker in the Chinese Communist Party, has been appointed deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration. The 49-year-old bureaucrat is unusually outspoken in advocating political reforms and his career is avidly watched as a weathervane for the prevailing political wind. At the Economic Restructuring Office of the State Council, he prepared an internal document, entitled 'Thoughts on the transformation from a revolutionary party to a party in power', which was widely circulated in the upper echelon of the government and overseas. Liberal critics were disappointed he left out a reassessment of the Tiananmen massacre, while the conservatives went into a frenzy attacking him as 'China's Yeltsin'. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr Pan urged the authorities to abandon the Communist Party's traditional hostility towards religion. He said it should enlist organised religions as partners in governing society. Dubbed a 'memorialist' in the tradition of Chinese intellectuals trying to save the moribund imperial dynasty, his personal politics are difficult to nail down. His father was a high-ranking officer in the PLA and he was once married to the daughter of General Liu Huaqing, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. He served as the deputy editor-in-chief of the China Youth Daily, and worked at various government posts. As the deputy director of the Economic Restructuring Office, he was seen as a protege of former premier Zhu Rongji. Mr Pan's career was in limbo during the period of leadership transition, from last summer to the conclusion of the National People's Congress in March. 'His ideas are too much of a hot potato for the new leaders, who are still consolidating their positions,' said an intellectual in Beijing.