Major changes in the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party could be revealed at the Fourth Plenary Session in Beijing next week, according to media speculation.

More than 200 top party members will attend the session between next Monday and Thursday, after the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee Political Bureau, chaired by Xi Jinping, decided yesterday to schedule the Plenary Session, which has not met for more than a year.

Yesterday (October 24), the 25 members of the Politburo discussed important issues about how to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and how to modernise China’s capacity for governance, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

They were briefed about opinions solicited from in and outside the Communist Party about a document on the Central Committee’s decision on these issues, the statement said.

‘Intense power struggle’

Chen Pokong, a US-based political commentator, has claimed that the postponement of the Fourth Plenary Session shows that there is a very intense power struggle within the party.

He said the number of standing Politburo members could increase from seven to nine with Chongqing party chief Chen Min’er, 59, and Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, 56, as new members.

He said Chen Min’er is an ally of Xi and could be his successor in the future. But, the commentator added that if the number of politburo members remains unchanged, two of the existing seven will be kicked out.

Willy Lam Wo-lap wrote in an article on October 9 that Xi wants to strengthen his power in the party in the Fourth Plenary Session. Lam said Xi had been facing rising challenges from his opponents as the US-China trade dispute could not be resolved and the chaotic situation in Hong Kong has not ended.

Lam said Xi would try to strengthen his control of party members by launching more internal rules to forbid members from questioning the reasoning of the central government or deviating from the views of the party’s core.

New leader for Hong Kong

Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a Hong Kong-based political commentator, told Apple Daily that Xi would have to show some achievements or plans to resolve several key problems such as the US-China trade war, unrest in Hong Kong and the deterioration of China-Taiwan relations, in the Fourth Plenary Session to maintain his power in the party.

Lam said China would continue to open up its markets and stimulate its slowing economy but at the same time increase its control in social governance.

Yau Ching-yuen, another political analyst, said it is possible Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam would resign shortly after the Fourth Plenary Session in order to help the pro-establishment camp regain trust from their supporters in the District Council election on November 24.

Yau said he expects Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Wang Zhimin, director of the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, will also be replaced over the turmoil created by extradition bill.

He said the Plenary Session would decide on whether Norman Chan Tak-lam, a former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, or Henry Tang Ying-nien, a former chief secretary and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, would be the next Chief Executive.

If Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan gains more power, his close friend Norman Chan would have a better chance, Yau said. But he felt that Tang was a better candidate to be an interim Chief Executive given his deeper connections with Hong Kong businessmen and stronger social skills.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that the Chinese government was drafting a plan to replace Lam with an “interim” chief executive by March 2020. Xi Jinping had to make a decision on this, according to the report, which cited unnamed people briefed on the deliberations.

Chan and Tang were named as two possible candidates.

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