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A GRAND GESTURE? Or a personal one? Asiaweek has learned that Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fan On-sang will visit Beijing in September. She recently gained notoriety by criticizing the territory's method of including functional constituencies in its election process. In Hong Kong 1999 — an official annual report tracking the territory's political and economic development — she called for the system to be phased out, saying it splits society "into first- and second-class citizens." Chan's opinion contradicts Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's publicly held position that Hong Kong is not ready for fullscale democracy. Prior to publication, the article was widely read among high government officials, but no objections were raised — nor was it mentioned to Tung, who did not know about it until it was released. So, while in Beijing, will Chan be making her argument to those in power there, in a bid to take Tung's job when it becomes available in 2002? Tung is well-supported by many of Hong Kong's most powerful people, but Chan is no political novice and enjoys widespread popular support. It's a longshot, but could Chan be bidding for Tung's job or just distancing herself from his problem-plagued administration?

HERE WE GO AGAIN For the second time this year PM Mori Yoshiro's government has been embarrassed by the resignation of the chairman of the government's Financial Reconstruction Commission (FRC). This time, chairman Kuze Kimitaka, 71, admitted that he had received some 330 million yen ($3 million) in advisory fees. His departure is not that big a loss — when Kuze took the job he admitted he was utterly ignorant about financial matters. And though his departure could be construed as a good thing — Japan can get tough with corrupt officials — the move is undercut by the fact that Kuze's replacement is 81-year-old Aizawa Hideyuki, former head of the Economic Planning Agency. While in that job he opposed a broad array of financial reforms. Although all reform proposals are not universally good, Aizawa's knee-jerk reaction to them indicated a desire to protect the status quo rather than a thoughtful opposition. He should fit right in with Mori's apparent "nothing new" cabinet and style of governance. Aizawa is the fifth head of the FRC since it was created in December 1998.

SENDING A MESSAGE China's anti-corruption campaign has bagged its most recent culprit, and this time the catch is a big one — not just some unfortunate underling. The death sentence handed down to former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress, Cheng Kejie, 66, is the first meted out to such a high ranking official for corruption since the Communists came to power in 1949. Cheng was convicted of taking almost $5 million in bribes when he was governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. Among his scams: Using his position to sell state land cheaply to associates or bribe payers and illegally granting development contracts and state loans. Cheng's mistress, Hong Kong resident Li Ping, 46, delivered a damning report of her former lover's activities when she testified at his trial. Li faces charges for kickbacks she received from Cheng between 1992 and 1998. To make sure Cheng's sentencing was not misinterpreted, the Communist Party issued a circular urging other officials to view the sentence as a "negative example and cautionary lesson," according to the People's Daily.

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