China has named a Paris-trained scientist who is not a member of the
Communist Party of China to the key post of health minister, the Xinhua
news agency said on Friday.
The standing committee of the National
People's Congress, or parliament, approved the appointment of Chen Zhu, 54, on
Friday, Xinhua said.
Chen was the second non-Party member to be given
such a key appointment since the late 1970s following the naming of Wan Gang as
science and technology minister in April.
Chen's predecessor, the 63-year-old Gao Qiang, was made a vice minister.
Chen, born in Shanghai in 1953, had been vice president of the
prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2000, according to his official
biography on the academy's Web site (www.cas.ac.cn).
Unlike Gao, an economics
major who climbed the hierarchy holding administrative jobs, Chen is a molecular
biologist and an expert on leukaemia, receiving a doctorate degree from
University of Paris VII in 1989.
One of 17 million urban "intellectual
youth" sent down to the countryside during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution,
Chen spent five years labouring in the rice-growing eastern province of Jiangxi
in the 1970s.
He attended a Jiangxi medical vocational school in 1975
and went back to Shanghai in 1978 for graduate study.
minister, Chen faces a series of public health challenges such as HIV-AIDS,
human bird flu and reform of the medical system.