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Party Elections in Major Cities Ahead of 16th Congress

China News Digest, 17 May 2002

[CND, 05/17/02] Chinese Communist Party committees in Beijing and Shanghai are scheduled to conduct elections soon for new local party leaders, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The elections are part of the preparations for the 16th Communist Party Congress to be held in October, the Hong Kong-based, pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao reported.

Following the instructions from the [central leadership], reshuffles at the provincial level will be completed by the end of June, the newspaper reported.

In a separate article, the official Xinhua news agency reported that Sichuan party secretary ZHOU Yongkang was won re-election as the Sichuan province party secretary on Tuesday.

In addition to the upcoming elections in Beijing and Shanghai, coastal provinces including Guangdong and Jilin are also scheduled to hold elections for their leadership positions in late May.

Four additional provinces - Zhejiang, Shandong, Hubei and Shaanxi - will elect their leaders in June.

The Ta Kung Pao article did not provide any details on the elections but listed two principal items on the agenda of the 16th Party Congress.

First, [the Congress] will seek to establish a young and energetic new leadership both at the central and provincial levels, the report said.

Second, [the congress] will address some crucial issues in which the public have expressed acute interest. The second issue apparently refers President JIANG Zemin's decision in July 2001 to allow private businessmen to become members of the Communist Party.

Observers in China and overseas keep close watch on leadership changes in Beijing and Shanghai because the party secretaries of these two cities traditionally have seats on the powerful Politburo.

Analysts are also waiting to see whether Guangdong party secretary LI Changchun, 58, will be promoted to a position in the central leadership.

Mr Li and his counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai, JIA Qinglin and HUANG Ju, are believed to be Mr Jiang's proteges. All of three men are below the official retirement age of 65.

Analysts noted that status shifts for the trio would help to reveal how power will be distributed after the party congress in October.

Most observers expect that Mr Jiang will resign in favor of his heir apparent, HU Jintao, at the congress.

The Communist Party began the process of re-electing its provincial leaders last September.

The Ta Kung Pao report noted that many of the new leaders who have since been elected are of a much more recent generation, with an average age of 45, and that many were university-educated.

The report underscored that all new candidates have been subjected to more thorough background checks by anti-corruption agencies. (Laurel Mittenthal)