China's princelings in high posts

China's President Hu Jintao (Left) and China's Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping.

The son of newly retired Chinese president Hu Jintao has apparently entered politics.

Formerly in business, Mr Hu Haifeng, 41, has reportedly been appointed as deputy party secretary of Jiaxing city in the coastal Zhejiang province.

His appointment comes hot on the heels of the political emergence of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's grandson, Mr Deng Zhuodi, as a county leader in southern Guangxi autonomous region.

Observers had predicted that the 28-year-old Mr Deng would be the first of many princelings to come, as a political career appears more lucrative against the uncertain economic backdrop.

News of the political scions climbing up the ranks is, however, an increasingly tricky affair for the Communist Party to handle.

Recent news reports of a crop of young local officials whose rapid promotions were believed to be due to their family connections have triggered cries of nepotism.

The public outcry may explain the caution taken by local governments in handling news about the younger Mr Hu.

Searches of his name on the Weibo microblog are blocked while the Jiaxing government website containing details of its leadership conspicuously omitted Mr Hu's name.

His new role was revealed last Friday when the Jiaxing Daily, the local government's mouthpiece, reported that he was part of an entourage with Zhejiang deputy governor Wang Huizhong on a visit to factories.

News footage from Zhejiang Satellite TV showed Mr Hu sitting in a meeting with fellow officials.

According to the South China Morning Post, the man "bore a strong resemblance to the former head of state's son".

But by Saturday, the city government's official website, which was last updated on Friday, had listed the names of all its party leaders - except that of Mr Hu.

Elsewhere, talk is rife that an up-and-coming Shanghai official named Wu Lei, 37, is the son of ex-National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo, who retired in March along with Mr Hu Jintao during China's leadership change.

Netizens based it on the facial resemblance between the two Wus and the fact that both hail from Feidong, a county east of Anhui provincial capital Hefei.

Hong Kong based observer Willy Lam believes more princelings are joining politics as part of efforts by the Communist Party to improve its reputation. "The leaders want to show that they and their children are more keen to serve the people than making money in business," he added.

Specifically, Prof Lam thinks the younger Hu's new career move is aimed at improving the family's reputation.

A security scanner-manufacturing company he had headed up till 2008 was investigated in 2009 by the Namibian authorities over bribery charges.

But the princelings will face challenges, due to strong resentment over nepotism, said observers.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook