China to unveil new leadership line-up as Xi cements power

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the welcoming banquet for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, in Xiamen, China, in this September 4, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 October 2017
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China to unveil new leadership line-up as Xi cements power

BEIJING: China is set Wednesday to unveil its new ruling council with President Xi Jinping firmly at the helm after stamping his authority on the country by engraving his name on the Communist Party’s constitution.
In a highly choreographed event, the members of the elite Politburo Standing Committee will appear in public at the palatial Great Hall of the People after they are selected by 204 party officials in conclave.
Xi, 64, is certain to emerge with a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary, with an even stronger mandate to accomplish his ambition of turning China into a global superpower with a world-class military by mid-century.
Premier Li Keqiang, 62, is also expected to retain his seat but the five other men on the current committee are supposed to step down under an unofficial retirement age and be replaced.
But whoever walks out behind Xi will likely have much less influence than their predecessors after the party congress enshrined the Chinese leader’s name in the Communist charter on Tuesday.
The honor has put him in the rarefied company of the nation’s founder Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, the architect of its economic reforms, and could set the stage for him to stay in power past his second term.
“Xi Jinping’s thought will be China’s signature ideology and the new communism,” the official Xinhua news service wrote in a commentary Tuesday.
The accolade firmly establishes Xi as the country’s locus of power, potentially upending the collective model of leadership promoted by Deng and embraced by Xi’s two predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.
In the past two administrations, decisions were the result of horse-trading and consultation among members of the standing committee, the council of party elders which has led China since Deng’s death in 1997.
But with his name in the constitution, Xi has become the nation’s ultimate authority, likely giving him the last word on all major decisions.

All eyes will be on who appears when the new standing committee walks out shortly before noon (0400 GMT) following the secret vote by the party’s 204-member Central Committee.
Analysts have been divided about who will fill out the committee’s roster, and whether an heir apparent will appear. Xi himself was elevated to the committee in 2007 and succeeded Hu Jintao as general secretary and president five years later.
Although the new members may not exercise much real power, the results — which are largely expected to be guided by Xi’s preferences — will give some hints about his priorities and his attitude toward the party’s norms.
Even “Mao was not a one-man show,” said Mattias Stepan of Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.
“Xi still needs capable people to stand next to him to promote his agenda.”
At least one important figure will not make the cut.
Xi’s right-hand man Wang Qishan was not on the list of Central Committee members who were elected by the congress Tuesday, meaning he will vacate his seat on the standing committee.
Analysts had thought the 69-year-old leader of the country’s anti-corruption campaign might be kept on in defiance of the party’s unofficial guideline that cadres retire at 68, setting up Xi to stay on after he himself turns 69 in 2022.
Some of the names that have been invoked as contenders for a committee job include vice premier Wang Yang, 62, Xi adviser Li Zhanshu, 67, and top Central Committee official Wang Huning, 62.
Their ages would likely rule them out as potential Xi successors.
Two younger contenders include the new party chief in the mega-city of Chongqing, long-time Xi ally Chen Miner, 57, and Hu Chunhua, 54, who oversees the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong province.
Only 10 women were elected to the Central Committee, making it unlikely that one of them will become the first woman to join the ruling council since the Communists took power in 1949.


Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

Updated 31 min 28 sec ago
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Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

  • The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly
  • With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with modern equipment

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba: The controversial Guantanamo Bay prison still houses 40 aging inmates — and with no plans to close it, many of them will probably remain there until they die.
The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly — the oldest inmate is 71 — so the prison with a history of torture has taken on some airs of a geriatric facility.
The US Army — directed to ensure Guantanamo can stay open at least another 25 years — has revamped parts of the institution home to terror suspects to include a dedicated medical center and operating rooms.
“There has been a lot of thought put into what preparing for an aging detainee population looks like and what infrastructure we need to have in place to do that safely and humanely,” said Anne Leanos, the public affairs director for Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with a radiology room equipped with an MRI scanner, as well as an emergency room and three-bed intensive care unit.
During a journalist visit to the new clinic, a walker sits in the corner of a room, which has a hospital bed, wheelchair and medical equipment akin to any other infirmary.
But there is no window, and wire mesh serves as a partition, recalling that this is still very much a detention center.
Congress will not allow sick prisoners to travel to the United States for treatment: Guantanamo inmates are considered highly dangerous by the government, which accuses them of participating in various attacks including those of September 11.
No prisoner needs a wheelchair yet — but if the need arises, the clinic is prepared with ramps.
Patients suffer from ailments common for their age: diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal diseases and motor disorders.
The second-floor psychiatric ward is equipped with two cells converted into consultation rooms.
A third, completely empty cell is padded and serves as the isolation room for prisoners experiencing psychotic episodes.
Like any staff deployed to Guantanamo, prison psychiatrists usually stay just nine to 12 months on site, limiting the scope of their interaction with prisoners.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits Guantanamo about four times a year to make sure the prison is complying with detention standards and to assess detainees’ treatment.
Since the infamous detention center opened in 2002, nine inmates have died: seven committed suicide, according to the military, while one died of cancer and another had a heart attack.
The largest contingent — 26 inmates — at the military complex have never been charged with anything, but are considered too dangerous to be released.
One “highly compliant” inmate was on a “non-religious fast,” at the moment of the visit — a euphemism used at the prison to describe hunger strikes prisoners regularly observe in protest.
Acts of rebellion are fairly common — and base commander Admiral John Ring said one inmate was currently under disciplinary action.
“These are the ones that could not be released,” said Ring. “Many of these gentlemen are still at war with the United States.
“Any act of resistance, no matter how small — they are still fighting the war through these minor acts of resistance.”