Former Macau chief executive Edmond Ho Hau-wah and the 11th Panchen Lama are one step closer to being ranked as state leaders after becoming members of the mainland's top advisory body yesterday. Both Ho and the Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, have been widely tipped to take up the ceremonial yet high-ranking position as vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Vice-chairmanship at the advisory organisation is regarded as equivalent to 'state leaders'. The Panchen Lama also became the youngest CPPCC member. The previous youngest member was tennis player Yan Zi . Also appointed into the CPPCC were 11 others, including the former head of the top food safety watchdog Li Changjiang , and Huang Longyun, a former Guangdong vice-governor. The appointments were made a few days ahead of the annual CPPCC plenary session, which starts on Wednesday. The election of vice-chairmen usually takes place on the last day of the session. Ho's likely escalation to CPPCC vice-chairmanship would follow the case of Tung Chee-hwa, who took up the post after resigning as Hong Kong chief executive in 2005. The Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, has been tipped to fill the seat vacated by the death of Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme in December. Last month, Gyaincain Norbu was elected vice-chairman of the Buddhism Association of China. The CPPCC has long been seen as a retirement club for top officials and dignitaries. Many were appalled when Li, who was stripped of his position at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine over the melamine-tainted milk scandal in 2008, came back as the national anti-pornography commission head in December.