ZHANG APPEARSIN PUBLIC AFTERSUICIDE RUMOUR Former Guangzhou mayor who mayface probe

ZHANG APPEARSIN PUBLIC AFTERSUICIDE RUMOUR Former Guangzhou mayor who mayface probe over Asian Gamesgraftcharges attends conference to end internetspeculation

Mimi Lau in Guangzhou and He Huifeng

411 words

31 August 2012

South China Morning Post




(c) 2012 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong. All rights reserved.

Former Guangzhou mayor and party chief Zhang Guangningmade a public appearance yesterday morning amid rumours thathe had been placed under internal disciplinary investigation by the Communist Party and that he had committed suicide.

Zhang was photographed wearing a white shirt and black pants while walking into a conference regarding police work, the Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday. The appearance followed rumours in cyberspace a day earlier that said Zhang was under investigation over alleged illegal profits made during the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010 and hadtaken his own life.

His presence made headlines in the province, with a photo showing him standing behind Zhu Mingguo , deputy party secretary of Guangdong.

Zhang stepped down as Guangzhou party secretary in December amid leadership reshuffles, replaced by the city's then-mayor Wan Qingliang.

He was tipped for a position with the Central Government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong or Macau, but was also rumoured to be in line for a high-ranking position in Beijing or a role in Hainanas the province's executive vice-governor.

Zhang was elected a delegate for Guangdong in May to attend the Communist Party's national congress later this year. However, the 59-year-old former steelworker's next political appointment remains unclear.

A statement issued by the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy on Wednesday cited a friend of Zhang's family as saying that he was being investigated by the party's top anti-graft watchdog amid allegations of "obtaining profits in Guangzhou Asia Games construction projects". However, it added that that his "personal freedom was not restrained".

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had not replied to inquiriesby last night about whether Zhang was being investigated.

The propaganda offices of the Guangdong and Guangzhou governments told the Post on Wednesday that they did not know whether Zhang was being investigated for graft.

Zhang has been off the public radar for several months. Commenting on the sudden reappearance, a Guangzhou-based political analyst whoasked not to be named said it wasobviously to "refute the suicide rumour".

"In any anti-graft investigation in China, ties and relationships are very complicated. The punishment is subject to an internal power tussle and can be bargained," he said. "This could take a long time."

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