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Rising star: Hubei Communist Party secretary Li Hongzhong named Tianjin party chief ahead of China’s power reshuffle

Hubei provincial party secretary Li Hongzhong has been appointed Tianjin’s party chief – making him a strong contender to become a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo in the upcoming power reshuffle.

Li, 60, the former party chief of Shenzhen, was named the municipal party secretary in Tianjin, succeeding Huang Xingguo, who was the acting party head for almost two years and also mayor of the northern municipality, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

Acting Communist Party chief of Tianjin placed under investigation for suspected graft

A major reshuffle is expected at the party’s National Congress, due to be held in autumn next year.

The announcement came after days of speculation, following Huang’s detention as part of a party probe, because whoever gains the job will be seen as a new political rising star as President Xi Jinping appoints his favoured candidates to key posts before the congress.

Aside from Gao Dezhan between 1993 and 1997, all party chiefs of Tianjin have been given a seat on the powerful Politburo since Ni Zhifu was promoted as the municipality’s top party official in 1984.

Huang was placed under investigation on suspicion of severe violation of party regulations – a common euphemism for corruption – by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Saturday evening.

Top Tianjin official’s exit ‘may trigger Politburo power plays’

He was formally removed on Tuesday from his posts of Tianjin’s acting party boss and mayor, Tuesday’s announcement said.

Li has previously made several gestures to publicly show his allegiance to Xi.

He was among the first few regional party bosses who publicly pushed forward the formal naming of President Xi Jinping as the “core” of the party early this year

Li also grabbed the headlines in 2010, when he was governor of Hubei province, at that year’s annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, when he criticised a state media reporter and seized her digital recorder when she asked him to comment on an issue involving the rape of a young woman by local officials in the city of Shishou, which was under Li’s control.

Li, a former secretary to Li Tieying, a former member of the Politburo, refused to make any apology over his controversial actions, despite repeated demands by hundreds of journalists and editors from China and abroad.