Confusion in rare multiple reshuffles at Communist Party's provincial committees

Confusion as new appointments announced to top posts in Tianjin, Xinjiang and Hainan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 December, 2014, 1:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 December, 2014, 8:16am

The authorities unveiled changes at the top of several provincial administrations in a rare simultaneous reshuffle yesterday.

But there was confusion over the appointment of outgoing Tianjin party secretary Sun Chunlan, who will be replaced by the municipality's mayor Huang Xingguo.

Mainland media initially reported that Sun would head the United Front Work Department, a position most recently occupied by Ling Jihua, who is under investigation for corruption. But Xinhua later said only that Sun would step down from her position, "pending further appointment". All online reports of Sun taking the department's helm were pulled down.

A department spokesman said they did not have any news of Sun's appointment. The department handles the Communist Party's external relationships with non-party entities and previous chiefs have played big roles in forging ties with business and community leaders in Hong Kong.

The appointment of Huang, who was Zhejiang's deputy governor while President Xi Jinping was its deputy party secretary, was seen as a break with tradition in which the party bosses of the four municipalities directly under the central government are Politburo members. Huang is a member of the party's Central Committee.

Political analyst Zhang Lifan said Huang would retain influence due to his ties with Xi.

"Huang is a rising star with experience working in Zhejiang. Xi is also known to appoint cadres within his circle. The appointment shows that Huang has won Xi's trust to take up the important position in Tianjin that was traditionally dominated by the 'Shanghai Gang', or people under [former president] Jiang [Zemin]," Zhang said.

Zhang said the mixed signals over Sun's appointment might simply be down to a party organisational technicality.

Huang, 60, became party secretary of Taizhou in 1989 and deputy provincial governor in 1998. He has been Tianjin's mayor since 2008.

Sun is one of the few women among the senior party ranks. Before going to Tianjin in 2012, she was party boss of Fujian.

In other reshuffles, Shekriti Zakel, director of the people's congress in Xinjiang , takes over from Nur Bekri as the region's deputy party secretary, paving the way for Shekriti Zakel to become the region's government chairman.

The party news portal also published and pulled news of changes in Hainan . The appointment of Liu Cigui, party boss of the State Oceanic Administration, resurfaced, with Hainan Daily's microblog saying he was a candidate to replace Jiang Dingzhi as the island's governor. Jiang is heading for a new appointment.