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China Leader’s Job at Odds With Tobacco Ties, Brookings Says

The brother of Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who oversees public health, should be removed from his post as a top official in China’s state-owned tobacco monopoly to avoid conflicts of interest, a report published by the Washington-based Brookings Institution said.

Li, set to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier early next year, could boost his reputation as a populist leader and deflect criticism from rivals if his younger brother, Li Keming, is transferred from his position as deputy director at China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, Cheng Li, a Brookings senior fellow, wrote in a report. He said Li Keming’s prominent role in the agency that runs the world’s biggest tobacco company may have set back efforts to control tobacco in the country.

Public opinion in China is becoming more important on social issues including health, environmental protection and food safety, Brookings’s Li said today. China has more than 300 million smokers, and at least 1.2 million die from smoking- related diseases each year, a figure set to rise to 2 million a year by 2020, according to the report, released two weeks before China begins a once-a-decade leadership transition.

“In all these areas, I think leaders should set examples,” Brookings’s Li said in an interview. “Particularly now that many countries, including Russia and India, are paying more attention to public health issues.”

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