Hu Jintao
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Tibet cadre promoted to chief of youth league

Hu Jintao

Appointment shows president is cementing grip on power

A deputy party chief in restive Tibet has been appointed head of the influential Communist Youth League in another sign that President Hu Jintao has solidified his grip on power ahead of next year's crucial party congress.

Hu Chunhua , who was working in Tibet when Mr Hu was party secretary in the Himalayan region, will take over from Zhou Qiang , who was appointed governor of the central province of Hunan in October.

'The Central Committee of the Communist Party has recently decided to appoint comrade Hu Chunhua as first secretary of the Communist Youth League, and comrade Zhou Qiang has been relieved of his duty from the position,' the party's decision-making body announced on the central government's website yesterday.

Mr Hu built his power base as head of Tibet and the Communist Youth League before his promotion to the pinnacle of party leadership.

Unrelated to the president, Hu Chunhua, 43, is a native of the central province of Hubei and first started working in Tibet in 1983. He worked as a manager of a state-run hotel in Lhasa , the Tibetan capital, from 1985 to 1987 and became one of Tibet's deputy party secretaries in 2003.

As a graduate from the prestigious Peking University with grass roots experience, he appears to fit the pattern of promotion in Chinese officialdom.

'Different from the past few years, when local governments had been given power, Hu Jintao is going back to [a policy] of centralising power in his own hands, so conflicts must ensue,' Huang Jing, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said in Hong Kong yesterday.

Dr Huang, an associate professor of political science and co-director of Utah State University's Asian studies programme, was speaking on the recent political infighting and corruption scandals involving senior mainland officials.

'Under Hu, policy changes have already happened. But these changes must be done gradually and he must have a consensus from the leadership within the party. That is why you have seen new party secretaries in Sichuan and Jilin provinces recently,' Dr Huang said.

Hu Chunhua's Communist Youth League appointment is the latest in a series of reshuffles among regional governments and central ministries.

The moves are believed to have been initiated by the president amid the jockeying for positions in the run-up to the 17th Communist Party Congress next year.

Since assuming power late in 2002, Mr Hu has filled key central and provincial government posts with his youth league allies.

The pace of the transition has accelerated recently.

He has named an ally, former agriculture minister Du Qinglin , as Sichuan Communist Party boss. Mr Du's post is to be filled by Sun Zhengcai , 43, the former secretary-general of the Beijing Communist Party Committee.

On Tuesday, Han Changfu , a deputy director of the State Council's research office, was appointed as a deputy party secretary of Jilin province , a position expected to usher him into the provincial governorship.

Dr Huang said the new leaders appointed by President Hu would not have to come from the Communist Youth League, but would have to share his views on the direction for the country.

Mr Hu has also solidified his power by disposing of potential rivals, including Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu over corruption allegations.

Additional reporting by Georgina Lee