Now China scandal goes all the way to the top
Shockwaves from the dramatic fall of Communist party boss Bo Xilai have spread to China’s highest decision-making body, with Zhou Yongkang, the country’s security chief and a member of the nine-man standing committee of the Politburo, under investigation for crimes unknown.
In keeping with China’s closed political system, the information released publicly about Mr Bo’s case has been little, the rumours many and almost no-one is willing to speak on the record. But overseas-based Chinese websites and political insiders say Mr Zhou is also under heavy scrutiny and could face a reckoning.
“Internally, the power struggle is getting more intense and, if true, Zhou’s removal would be seriously damaging,” Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said.
Mr Zhou, 72, is widely reported to have been the only leading official to have argued against last week’s striking decision to suspend Mr Bo’s membership in the 25-seat Politburo – effectively ending the political career of one of China’s most ambitious and high-profile politicians.
Mr Bo, 62, has also been removed from his post as party chief in the city of Chongqing and is under investigation for disciplinary violations, possibly relating to corruption or interference in police work. His wife, Gu Kailai, and a household aide were named as suspects in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood and handed over to police.
Since then, Mr Zhou has made tearful self-criticisms to president Hu Jintao and former leader Jiang Zemin, his political mentor, according to the US-based Chinese-language dissident news site Boxun.com, which has been reporting accurately on the Bo scandal. Despite that, Mr Zhou is now under some form of secretive investigation by the party’s disciplinary body, it said.
Boxun’s manager, Watson Meng, said yesterday that, according to his sources, the investigation’s outcome will be decided based on Mr Zhou’s attitude and will become known within days.
A prominent Beijing lawyer, who asked not to be identified, said he had heard the same from his sources.
Mr Zhou’s alleged crimes aren’t known, although speculation ranges from massive corruption to secretly conspiring with Mr Bo to boost him into the top leadership.
Mr Zhou, for now, remains very much in the public eye. On Tuesday, he greeted Cuban guests at a meeting carried on national television and also reported on the front page of the party’s official People’s Daily.
Mr Bo and Mr Zhou’s relationship is believed to date at least as far back as the 1990s, when both served in the north-eastern province of Liaoning.
Close ties were underscored by Mr Zhou’s vocal support for Mr Bo’s signature policies as Chongqing party boss, of cracking down on organised crime and promoting Maoist culture. On a well-publicised March 2010 visit to Chongqing, Mr Zhou applauded the controversial decision to imprison lawyer Li Zhuang on charges that he prompted a gang boss he was representing to lie about police torture. Li served 18 months in a Chongqing prison.
Mr Zhou offered further praise at a meeting of Chongqing delegates to the annual legislative session last month, at a time when Mr Bo was already under a cloud. The latter pledged to “seriously reflect on and implement” Mr Zhou’s “important guidance”.
One week later, Mr Bo was sacked after being rebuked by premier Wen Jiabao at a nationally televised news conference.
Mr Bo riled many in the leadership, with his flair for self-promotion and willingness to break from party consensus. Mr Zhou has been less controversial, but his support for Mr Bo, even when he was out of favour, could be seen as a breach of party discipline.
Mr Bo’s removal has fuelled cynicism among ordinary Chinese, leading to a flood of rumours and speculation – much of it online – about political feuding among the leaders and even attempted coups.
Taking down Mr Zhou would only reinforce such views, said Joseph Cheng, who heads the Contemporary China Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong. “It furthers the perception that all cadres are corrupt and all corruption investigations are political,” said Mr Cheng, who believes Mr Hu would prefer to sidestep further conflict by allowing Mr Zhou to retire after this autumn’s party congress, as originally expected.
While speculation simmers, other reports point to the detention of Bo associates, either over corruption or in connection with the death of Mr Heywood, whose once warm personal and business relationship with Ms Gu and her son Bo Guagua had recently turned sour.
Targets reportedly include Xu Ming, chairman of the Dalian Shide Group and a Bo confidant, and Xia Zeliang, head of Chongqing’s Nan’an district, where Mr Heywood was found dead. Both have dropped from sight since Mr Bo came under investigation.
The scandal was set in motion when Chongqing’s former police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu, leading the UK government to later request a new investigation into Mr Heywood’s death, which had originally been attributed by the authorities to excess drinking or a heart attack.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west