Leadership on agenda at China pre-Congress meet

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BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) China's ruling Communist Party met behind closed doors today for a final gathering that will decide the fate of Shanghai's sacked Party boss and hammer out a new leadership line-up ahead of a critical five-yearly congress.

The Central Committee, which has 198 full and more than 150 alternate members, will hear a report on an investigation of Chen Liangyu, who was last year sacked as Party boss of Shanghai, political bailiwick of President Hu Jintao's immediate predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

Chen, who has also lost his seat in the Party's decision-making Politburo, would be formally expelled from the Party, according to Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Ta Kung Pao newspaper, a move that would strengthen Hu's hand.

Chen, seen as a political ally of Jiang, had defied economic cooling measures introduced by Hu, who doubles as national Party chief, and Premier Wen Jiabao.

The plenum is also expected to endorse a plan to enshrine Hu's political ideas into the Party constitution, allowing him to take his place alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of Chinese Communist greats.

Hu's concepts of ''scientific development'' and building a ''harmonious society'' are aimed at correcting the country's path from that of the previous administration which featured breakneck growth at the expense of the environment.

In addition, the meeting will finalise key personnel changes to take place at the 17th Party Congress due to open on Monday.

More than 2,200 delegates will attend the Congress, at which Hu will seek to oust rivals, name an heir and shake off Jiang's lingering influence.

CALL FOR REFORM Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper quoted a former secretary to Mao Zedong as saying China's Communists must wage an internal revolution to become a modern political party, the outcome of which will determine the fate of the country's reforms.

''This transition can be said to be the Party's self-revolution,'' Li Rui, 90, was quoted as saying.

''Nearly 30 years of reform and opening already have prepared the economic, thought and organisational foundations for this revolution. Whether or not all of our reforms can succeed will be decided by reform of the political system.'' Such outspokenness is rare in China's one-party system. But it follows comments Li made last week that China could be dragged back to past decades of chaos unless long-delayed democratisation catches up with three decades of market reform, as well as candid calls for liberalisation from other, older Party intellectuals.

Ahead of the Congress, China called for Communist newspapers and periodicals to expand their influence, and Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang told a meeting that ''major incidents'' had to be ruled out, referring to protests and other potential unrest.

Human rights groups are seizing on the Congress to press their causes, with Chinese Human Rights Defenders issuing an open letter to China's leaders demanding the meeting adopt political reforms and guarantee freedoms of expression and assembly.

''We have realised that what causes the human rights disasters on this land is that power is not supervised and restricted,'' the letter said. ''To supervise and limit public power, we must realise democracy.'' Reuters ARB GC1243

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