A close ally of President Xi Jinping has been appointed as China’s new public security chief, the country’s top legislative body said in a notice on Friday.
Wang Xiaohong, 64, was promoted to minister of public security to oversee policing, replacing the more seasoned Zhao Kezhi, the 68-year-old who has been acting minister and is expected to retire in March.
A rising star in the ranks of China’s political and legal system, Wang is expected to further Xi’s national security vision and anti-corruption drive in the law enforcement apparatus.
Wang is the first professional police officer to lead the ministry in 24 years, and unlike his four predecessors he has never been a top provincial official.
The move is part of a major reshuffle of central and local governments ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s congress to be held later this year.
A new leadership line-up is expected to be unveiled at the twice-a-decade event but Xi is expected to secure a third term as the party’s leader.
Wang was in charge of a subdistrict of the police bureau in Fuzhou, the Fujian province capital, when Xi became Fuzhou’s party boss in 1990.
The Fuzhou native moved up the ranks of the Fujian public security system, becoming Fuzhou’s police chief in 1998. Four years later he was appointed Fujian’s deputy chief of public security, when Xi was the province’s No 2 official as governor.
A source based in Beijing told the South China Morning Post earlier that Wang was also responsible for Xi’s personal security during that time.
Three years after Xi rose to become party leader in 2012, Wang became Beijing’s chief of police. He was quickly promoted to China’s deputy minister of public security the following year, in 2016.
Wang’s appointment on Friday was widely expected after he was named the party boss of the Ministry of Public Security in November.
Like previous public security chiefs, Wang is also expected to become a state councillor – a high-ranking position in China’s cabinet – after the “two sessions”, or lianghui, political meetings in March.
The public security ministry is tasked with overseeing police forces across China, investigating white-collar crimes, monitoring the internet and cracking down on “cults” that Beijing sees as a threat to social stability.
The police force is also central to the enforcement of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, and in many cases officers have been responsible for forcefully relocating people to quarantine centres under the strict rules.
Xi has promoted a “comprehensive” vision of national security that sees economic development and political stability as part of state security.
The Chinese leader has promoted several of his trusted associates to lead major campaigns to maintain national security and fight corruption within party and state ranks.