China Replaces 5 Senior Officials

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 31, 2007

BEIJING, Aug. 30 -- The Chinese government announced Thursday that five senior officials were being replaced, including the finance and state security ministers, as part of a broad realignment leading up to a crucial Communist Party congress in October.

Finance Minister Jin Renqing has resigned for personal reasons after four years managing the country's booming finances, the government said. Jin, 63, was replaced by Xie Xuren, 59, director of the State Tax Administration.

Jin was well known as a contact for foreign economic officials. But the shift was likely to have little impact on China's overall economic policy, which follows strategy handed down from senior party leaders in the Politburo and Standing Committee.

At the State Security Ministry, which runs China's secret police and many of its intelligence operations at home and abroad, Geng Huichang will replace Xu Yongyue as chief. Along with the Public Security Ministry, the little publicized State Security apparatus has long been a pillar on which the party relies to maintain order and prevent any challenges to its monopoly on power.

The ministry changes, touching day-to-day administrators, did not affect positions in the Politburo or its Standing Committee, where ultimate power resides in the Chinese system. But they were seen as further steps in President Hu Jintao's effort to put loyalists in positions throughout the government and have his leadership solidified at the congress scheduled to open Oct. 15.

Several Hong Kong newspapers said the departure of Finance Minister Jin might have been linked to involvement with a woman who served as the mistress of two other senior officials, one of whom has been arrested for corruption. An Internet report said Jin introduced the woman, a former mistress of Du Sicheng, the disgraced party secretary of the coastal city of Qingdao, to Chen Tonghai, the chairman of the China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. who resigned under a cloud in June.

The government, true to its tradition of secrecy, declined to confirm or deny the reports, saying only that Jin had requested the resignation and would be reassigned to the State Council Development Research Center, a think tank for Premier Wen Jiabao's cabinet. As the center's deputy director, Jin "will still be treated as a minister," a cabinet spokeswoman said, reading from a prepared statement.

The specification that Jin will continue to hold high rank suggested that, whatever the circumstances of his departure, he remains for now in good overall standing within the party, where he serves as one of the roughly 200 members of the Central Committee that will be replaced at the October congress.

In the other ministry reshuffles, Ma Wen was named to replace Li Zhilun as minister of supervision; Zhang Qingwei was named to replace Zhang Yuanchuan as the minister-level director of the State Council of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense; and Yin Weimin was named to replace the retiring Zhang Bolin as personnel minister.

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