Rising political star Xi Jinping has been named by China's ruling Communist Party to manage Hong Kong and Macau affairs, state press said Saturday.
Xi was named to the party's powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee at a key five-yearly meeting last month and is seen as the main candidate to take over for President Hu Jintao when he retires in 2012.
"I'm very happy to announce that Politburo Standing Committee member comrade Xi Jinping will head up the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs," China News Service quoted Chen Zuoer, vice head of the group, as saying.
"He is now in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs."
Xi replaces Vice President Zeng Qinghong as the mainland's point man on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Zeng oversaw the return of the two former colonies to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s under Beijing's promise of high autonomy under the "one country, two systems" arrangement.
After reaching retirement age, Zeng was removed from the Politburo Standing Committee at the five-yearly Congress and will likely be replaced by Xi as vice president at China's parliamentary meeting in March.
Xi, the son of a Chinese communist revolutionary hero, is seen as a likely candidate to become China's fifth generation communist leader following Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu. ( AFP )