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China's Communist Party Congress Closes, Chooses New Central Committee Members

China's Communist Party has wrapped up its 17th congress after amending its charter and choosing new Central Committee members amid signs of President Hu Jintao strengthening his power base for a second five-year term. Kate Woodsome reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Communist Party Congress closed, after gaining support from the 2200 delegates for his leadership vision for the next five years.

The congress revised the party's charter to include President Hu's key policy initiative - the idea of "scientific development".

"We must continue to free our minds, persist in reform and opening up, pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and work to attain the ambitious goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects," he said.

The scientific way appears to involve greater efforts to address environmental problems and help for the country's impoverished citizens. It is in stark contrast to policies pursued by Mr. Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who focused mainly on bolstering economic growth.

The drive to help China's poor follows growing unrest in the countryside, where farmers and their families are becoming increasingly frustrated with landlessness and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The congress also elected a new 204-member Central Committee.

The party's fifth highest leader, Vice President Zeng Qinghong, stepped down after he was not re-elected to the Central Committee. Zeng has been a long-time ally of former President Jiang.

Without a place on the committee, Zeng cannot be re-appointed to the nine-member Standing Committee - the most powerful political body in China.

Two other Standing Committee members also are retiring. Wu Guanzheng, the head of the party's disciplinary committee, and security chief Luo Gan were not re-elected to the Central Committee.

Their retirement, and the death of another Standing Committee member last June, means as many as four new people could be named to the powerful group.

Vice Premier Wu Yi, the only women in a senior leadership position, also will be leaving the party. She was not-re-elected to the Central Committee and is expected to step down by March, when a new government is announced. Wu has been the key negotiator in strategic economic talks with the United States.

No reasons were given for the changes, but all the officials leaving the committee are either older than, or near, the party's preferred retirement age of 70. Analysts say the vacancies will leave room for younger politicians who support President Hu's policies.

On Monday, the Central Committee is expected to re-elect President Hu as the party boss. That will pave the way for parliament to rename Mr. Hu as president and military chief during its annual session in March.