China replaced the finance minister, the head of the secret police and three other Cabinet members in a major reshuffle of senior posts ahead of a major Communist Party meeting that will set policies for the next five years.
The Thursday announcement did not specify reasons but Beijing sources said that some officials had reached retirement age and one died in office. However Jin Renqing, finance minister since 2003, was resigning "for personal reasons" allegedly for his links to corruption cases. The replacement of the five senior officials comes amid a wave of new appointments and marks a departure from the past when top government portfolios changed hands every five years following party congresses. This year's congress next October will see President Hu Jintao put his stamp on the party's lineup and national priorities. On announcing the changes, legislative spokesman He Shaoren said that Jin was being replaced as finance minister by Xie Xuren, who runs the tax administration office. Geng Huichang, a vice minister for state security, would succeed his boss Xu Yongyue as head of the State Security Ministry, China's version of the former Soviet Union's infamous KGB. He Shaoren called the new appointments "perfectly normal" adding that "different departments have certain requirements and you need to make new appointments from time to time". The others replaced were the ministers in charge of supervision, personnel and a defense technology commission. Rumors that Jin, 63, was being ousted as finance chief had circulated for days, raising concern in global financial circles. Jin is still two years below the official retirement age for officials at the central government level. As China's top tax collector, Jin modernized the agency to keep pace with capitalist-style economic reform as Beijing increasingly turned to revenues from private business to fund development. Jin oversaw a highly publicized crackdown on tax evasion by the rich as part of efforts to ease public anger at the growing gap between rich and poor. A film star was arrested, and others targeted included entrepreneurs and professionals. Geng, 55, a vice minister of state security since 1998, has been involved in security preparations for the Olympics, taking part in briefings from Greek police officials on how they handled security for the 2004 Athens games