Zhang Gaoli

Former party boss of scandal-hit Tianjin dies of undisclosed illness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am


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The former party secretary of scandal-plagued Tianjin has died of an unspecified illness at the age of 68, Xinhua reported yesterday.

Zhang Lichang , who was also a Politburo member until October, died in Tianjin on Thursday at 10.20pm, Xinhua said.

A representative from the city government office declined to reveal the cause of Zhang's death.

The representative nevertheless said a memorial might be held for the public to bid farewell to the former chief.

But the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said any ceremony would be low profile because of Zhang's close ties to several former disgraced city officials.

The northern economic hub has been jolted by a 'political earthquake' in recent years that felled a top prosecutor, Li Baojin , and a chairman of the city's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Song Pingshun .

Li, president of the People's Procuratorate of Tianjin, received a suspended death sentence with a two-year reprieve for taking 5.62 million yuan in bribes.

Song, who held a rank equivalent to cabinet minister, died in an apparent suicide in June while being investigated for corruption and keeping a mistress.

He is believed to be one of the highest-ranking officials to commit suicide in the past three decades and was posthumously stripped of his party membership for a 'dissolute lifestyle and serious violation of party discipline'.

Shortly after Song's death, Tianjin Higher People's Court president Zhang Baifeng was investigated for bribery. The former head of Tianjin's police force, Wu Changshun , was also reportedly detained for corruption charges connected to property deals in 2006.

Despite his alleged close ties to the former officials, Zhang was described in an official obituary carried by Xinhua as 'an outstanding member of the Communist Party', 'a loyal Communist fighter', and 'an outstanding leader of the party'.

Zhang was the municipality's party boss from 1997 until he was replaced by former Shandong deputy governor Zhang Gaoli in March during a high-level provincial leadership reshuffle.

It was believed that he was replaced because he had reached retirement age.

Zhang was also the deputy chief of a State Council working group trying to revive traditional industrial bases in the country's northeast.