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Non-Party member appointed as new health minister
Updated: 2007-06-29 17:27

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.

As health minister, Chen faces a series of public health challenges such as HIV-AIDS, human bird flu and reform of the medical system.