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Bo Xilai

All change after Bo's downfall

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2012, 12:00am

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Officials at all levels of the Chongqing government have been summoned to meetings to pledge allegiance to the new leadership in the past two days as they brace for major reshuffles among the top leadership in the municipality.

A source close to the government said maintaining political stability was the priority for newly appointed party secretary Zhang Dejiang , who flew in to fill the political vacuum left by the departure of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, who was sacked a day after the closure of the National People's Congress annual plenum. The appointment of Zhang is unusual as he is a vice-premier.

Chongqing civil servants are expecting a major reshuffle - particularly in the municipality's organisation department, which is in charge of appointing civil servants, and the city's propaganda department, which was once Bo's main platform to push his political agenda.

Speculation is rife that Guan Haixiang, who has close connections with the Communist Youth League, the power base of President Hu Jintao, might take over as bureau chief of the organisation department. Guan was only appointed as police party secretary last month after his predecessor, Wang Lijun, allegedly attempted to defect to the American consulate in Chengdu, capital of neighbouring Sichuan province.

Sources in Chongqing believe He Ting, newly appointed vice-mayor, was likely to take over Guan's police portfolio later.

Bo, known for his media savvy, has held a tight grip over Chongqing media coverage of him. Chongqing sources believe Cai Minzhao, deputy head of the party's Central Publicity Department, is a top contender to take over Chongqing's propaganda department.

Bo's downfall also casts doubts over the political fate of his trusted ally, Mayor Huang Qifan. Huang has postponed his attendance at the China Development Forum at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing until tomorrow.

Many believe Huang's political career has come to an end, as premier Wen Jiabao said at a press conference on March 14 that 'the current party committee and government of Chongqing must seriously reflect upon and learn lessons from the Wang Lijun incident'.

However, a Chongqing source said Huang's immediate dismissal was unlikely because removing the municipality's two top officials at the same time would cause disruption.

District-level officials were summoned for meetings on Friday while others were held for county-level officials across the municipality yesterday morning.

'Participants of Saturday's meetings, of which the content was more or less the same as the one on Friday, have largely expressed their political allegiance to the new leadership under Secretary Zhang and stressed the importance of solidarity and stability,' said a government source who declined to be named.

Another government source said officials who attended the meetings were asked to make social and political stability their priority.

Chongqing media yesterday continued to highlight their loyalty to the new leadership.

Chongqing Times became a talking point on mainland microblogs yesterday as its front page contained only several big headlines about officials pledging loyalty to the new leadership and how Chongqing people were happy about Beijing's decision.