Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s younger brother has stepped down as deputy head of China’s powerful tobacco monopoly, Reuters reported, citing state media.
Li Keming, a vice director at the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, has “been removed” from his position which he has occupied since 2003, according to a brief Xinhua report, listing several other officials who were also stepping down.
The tobacco monopoly wields extraordinary power because it contributes about 7-10 percent of the government revenues, amounting to 816 billion yuan (US$130.72 billion) in 2013.
His position had drawn fire from anti-smoking activists who said the central government was too cozy with the monopoly, which controls 98 percent of the country’s vast cigarette market.
The tobacco monopoly engaged in intense lobbying, which resulted in the weakening of controversial legislation that aimed for a total ban on tobacco advertising, sources told Reuters.
The Xinhua report did not say what Li Keming would do next or who would replace him.
There are more than 300 million smokers in China, and millions more are exposed to second-hand smoke.
Last year, a health official said China was considering raising cigarette prices and taxes. The State Council, China’s cabinet, has issued a draft regulation to ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising.
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