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OBITUARIES

Huang Ju, 68; vice premier of China, Shanghai mayor

June 02, 2007|Ching-Ching Ni | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — Chinese Vice Premier Huang Ju, a member of the inner sanctum of the Communist Party Politburo and a longtime mayor and party boss of Shanghai, died early today in the Chinese capital. He was 68.

The report issued by the official New China News Agency did not give the cause of death, but Huang was known to have suffered from cancer.

The health conditions of China's top leadership have long been considered sensitive information, and even state secrets. Huang's status was the subject of some confusion early last month after Western media reported that he had died from pancreatic cancer. The government quickly denied it as baseless but gave no further information at the time.

Despite his rank among the elite nine-member Politburo Standing Committee and his responsibility for finance and economics, experts say Huang's departure is unlikely to affect the country's fiscal policy. But the timing of his death could have some effect on the balance of power in the Communist Party's core leadership.

President Hu Jintao is likely to select a new generation of rulers in the next party congress, in the fall. How he fills Huang's vacancy could indicate how much power remains in the hands of his predecessor, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Jiang has tried to hold onto his influence in Beijing by promoting proteges from his power base in Shanghai.

Huang was one of them. Another was Chen Liangyu, the since-disgraced Shanghai party boss and Politburo member ousted last fall over his role in a massive corruption scandal involving the city's social security fund.

"Huang's power was already weakened significantly through the fall of Chen. His death further weakens the 'Shanghai Gang.' They will have less bargaining power in the next party congress," said Cheng Li, a China expert at the Brookings Institution.

An obituary issued by the government called Huang "an excellent member of the Communist Party of China, a long-tested and faithful Communist fighter and an outstanding leader of the party and the state."

Born in Zhejiang province in September 1938, Huang spent most of his career in Shanghai, becoming mayor of the financial capital in 1991 and Communist Party boss in 1994. He joined the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing in 2002.

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chingching.ni@latimes.com

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