China’s Former Security Czar Zhou Arrested Over Graft, Leaking Secrets

Authorities in China have arrested the country’s once powerful security chief Zhou Yongkang and expelled him from the ruling Chinese Communist Party, official media reported Friday, in a move that could result in the prosecution of the highest-profile Chinese figure in more than three decades.

The 71-year-old Zhou has been accused of crimes ranging from accepting bribes to leaking state secrets and placed under a judicial probe.

In picture Zhou Yongkang at the National People’s Congress opening session in Beijing, March 5, 2012

“After a review of the case details, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate has decided to arrest Zhou Yongkang and begin investigations into his suspected crimes,” the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported on its website, citing the official Xinhua news agency.

“Investigation work is now proceeding on the case, according to law,” it said in the early hours of Saturday Beijing time.

Zhou, who retired from China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in 2012, was found to have “accepted a large amount of money and properties personally and through his family,” Xinhua said.

He is the most senior Communist Party member to come under a probe since a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong was put on trial in 1980.

The action against Zhou, who was last seen in public more than a year ago, lays to rest months of speculation over whether his alleged “serious violations” of party discipline would be dealt with internally, or whether criminal charges would be brought, paving the way for a trial.

It sets the stage for the first ever trial of a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, an official who ranked even higher than jailed former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, Zhou’s protege.

However, the charges against Zhou stop short of accusations of murder of his ex-wife, which have dogged him since her death in a car accident in 2000 shortly after the couple separated.

Zhou was ranked 29th in the 2011 Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People, with controlling interests in the state-run oil and private security sectors.

Anti-graft drive

The former security czar in July was put under investigation for “serious disciplinary violation” as officials waged an anti-corruption drive since President Xi Jinping ascended to the leadership two years ago.

Xinhua said the action against Zhou was made at a Politburo meeting Friday, signaling that it was taken with the approval of Xi.

“He took advantage of his posts to seek profits for others and accepted huge bribes personally and through his family,” the Xinhua report said.

“He abused his power to help relatives, mistresses and friends make huge profits from operating businesses, resulting in serious losses of state-owned assets,” it said.

Zhou also leaked party and state secrets, took money and property either himself or through his relatives, Xinhua said. It did not provide details.

It said that Zhou was found to have “committed adultery with a number of women and traded his power for sex and money,” adding that he had “completely deviated from the Party’s nature and mission, and seriously violated Party discipline.”

Pin Ho, editor of New York-based Chinese news magazine Mingjing News, who has been closely following the case against Zhou, told RFA that “the charges against him are very interesting, especially leaking state and party secrets.”

“This means they are recognizing that Zhou’s crimes are political, and that the sources who have been telling us that this is about party factions are correct.”

“The fact that he has been stripped of all his protective umbrellas means the crimes are pretty serious.”

“His expulsion from the party mean he has simultaneously been removed from [all his former rankings], and that now he has no protection at all.”


Sources linked to China’s leadership have previously told Reuters news agency that Xi was determined to bring down Zhou for allegedly plotting appointments to retain influence ahead of the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, when Xi took over the party.

Zhou had nominated Bo, a charismatic politician with leadership ambitions, to succeed him as domestic security chief and had tried to orchestrate the younger man’s promotion to the Standing Committee, the sources had told Reuters.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, an expert on Chinese politics and law at Hong Kong Baptist University, said ahead of Saturday’s announcement that the gradual tightening of the noose around Zhou suggested that he would be “eventually” tried, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported .

But he noted that authorities would probably be wary of opening up the proceedings.

“There’s always a risk with a public trial,” he said, adding that party leaders may move to ensure that a Zhou trial is “more controlled” than the dramatic Bo proceedings, which included descriptions of a love triangle and details of the vast wealth amassed by the party’s upper echelon, AFP reported.

The action against Zhou came following the ouster of Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.

Xu, who was a Politburo member until 2012, in July became the first of the body’s former members to fall in the current crackdown on graft.

Despite the crackdown, a recent report by Berlin-based Transparency International suggested that corruption has actually worsened in China, in part because “too many cases take place behind closed doors”.

Radio Free Asia, 2014-12-05


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