This is BIG! Zhou Yongkang was on TV confessing his crimes to the public. Why? Because he was in charge of China’s former chief of domestic security, and controlled the police and criminal justice system. Corruption in China is a problem, including the police, unfortunately.
Originally, I planned on posting the coverage from WA Post, but I decided to hop onto NY Times and this one is way better. However, I will post a link to the WA Post article after the NY Times article because they wrote a different angle on it. You will see the importance of hair color in that one.
Zhou Yongkang, Ex-Security Chief in China, Gets Life Sentence for Graft
HONG KONG — President Xi Jinping of China vowed to hunt “tigers” as well as “flies” in his drive to rid the ruling Communist Party of corruption, and on Thursday he defanged the most dangerous tiger yet — Zhou Yongkang, the nation’s former chief of domestic security.
Mr. Zhou was convicted of abuse of power, accepting bribes and revealing state secrets, and was sentenced to life in prison. With the verdict, which has been expected since the party first announced last summer that Mr. Zhou was under investigation, Mr. Xi has taken the Chinese political system into uncharted territory.
Only three years ago, Mr. Zhou sat with Mr. Xi on the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, which governs the country. Now he is the most senior leader to be jailed for corruption in more than 65 years of Communist rule.
His downfall, announced on national television with footage of him pleading guilty in one of the courtrooms he once controlled, follows the purge of a number of other leaders who were once considered untouchable in China, including some of the highest ranking generals in the People’s Liberation Army. With thousands of party officials investigated or jailed in the past two years, there can be little doubt now of the scope or severity of Mr. Xi’s crackdown.
Yet Mr. Xi’s ultimate goal, and his next move, remain uncertain.
Is he determined to press ahead with his popular campaign to cleanse the party of corruption, and risk a backlash from the powerful men and women of the party elite, in the cause of better government for China? Or is he trying to consolidate his hold on power, sidelining old enemies and intimidating potential new ones, after what now appears to have been a bruising succession battle?
“This is the point of decision, when he decides whether Zhou Yongkang is the last or the first great tiger,” Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor at Harvard University who focuses on Chinese elite politics, said of Mr. Xi. “I think it’s too early to tell.”
The life sentence is a final blow for Mr. Zhou, who was once seen as the second most powerful figure in the party because he controlled the police and the criminal justice system.
He was found guilty of accepting about $118,000 in bribes, including money and property from Jiang Jiemin, the jailed former head of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.
He was also found guilty of leaking six secret documents to a man named Cao Yongzheng, who was identified in Chinese news reports as a Beijing fortuneteller.
Mr. Zhou was shown on Chinese television bowing his head and confessing his crimes, his formerly jet-black hair turned white in confinement.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, Mr. Zhou’s wife, Jia Xiaoye, and his son from a former marriage, Zhou Bin, also took bribes totaling more than $20 million. The agency did not say whether they too were being prosecuted, or whether Mr. Zhou’s confession was made in exchange for leniency for them. Zhou Bin’s wife is an American citizen.
“I obey the verdict the court handed to me. I will not appeal,” Mr. Zhou said in the televised confession. “I acknowledge the fact that I have broken the law and committed crimes, and have caused losses to the party’s work. I, once again, plead guilty, and I repent.”
Prosecutors called the circumstances of his wrongdoing “particularly grave” when they announced charges against him in April. In its verdict, the Tianjin First Intermediate People’s Court said that the bribes were “extremely large” and that the sentence was proportional to the “degree of harm to society.”
The dollar amounts mentioned in the verdict were tiny compared with the Zhou family’s wealth. A New York Times investigation published last year found that the family had documented assets of more than $160 million, a conservative figure that did not include bank accounts, real estate, assets held by proxies or other wealth not reflected in publicly available records.
Several other politically powerful families were found by The Times to have documented assets greater than the Zhous’, including relatives of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, the former Beijing party chief Jia Qinglin, and the extended family of Mr. Xi himself. No evidence has come to light indicating that those assets were obtained illegally.
State media in China have suggested in recent weeks that Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign may be entering a new phase, with the emphasis shifting to prevention instead of enforcement.
Andrew Wedeman, a professor of political science at Georgia State University whose research is on corruption in China, said in a telephone interview that he saw evidence of the campaign slowing down. Moreover, he said, continuing to prosecute high-ranking people like Mr. Zhou could cause the party lasting damage.
“You do need some way of striking the balance,” Mr. Wedeman said. “You can’t keep indicting more and more tigers without really calling into question the integrity of the party as a whole. There is a need at some point to scale things back.”
Mr. Zhou’s lawyer, Gu Yongzhong, declined to discuss the case. “I hope you could base your story on the Xinhua statement, which is clear enough,” he said when reached by telephone. “I’ve got nothing to say.”
The head of China’s Supreme Court indicated in March that the trials of top officials would be open, but Xinhua said the trial court decided to try Mr. Zhou behind closed doors because of the state-secrets charge. Steve Tsang, head of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham, said in an email that the secrecy may also signal that Mr. Zhou was not cooperating with the authorities in a trial whose outcome was preordained. Mr. Tsang said that because of Mr. Zhou’s rank, top current and former leaders would have agreed on a verdict before the trial began.
The charges against him were “matters too important to be decided by the police, the procurators or the judges,” Mr. Tsang said. “They are highly sensitive and political matters that only the top leadership can decide.”
One of the people that the court said had benefited from Mr. Zhou’s corruption was Li Chuncheng, the former deputy Communist Party secretary in Sichuan Province, who was cashiered in December 2012, a few weeks after Mr. Xi took over the party’s top post. Other close associates of Mr. Zhou’s inner circle, including Mr. Jiang, the former oil and gas executive, were removed from their posts and prosecuted for corruption in the months that followed.
The Xinhua report said that Mr. Zhou worked with Mr. Jiang and Mr. Li to bring benefits to Mr. Zhou’s relatives and other people amounting to $345 million.
It is not clear what prompted the authorities to turn so quickly against Mr. Zhou. In March, though, the Supreme Court suggested that Mr. Zhou’s transgressions went far beyond bribery and leaking documents to fortune tellers.
In a report on judicial work, the Supreme Court said Mr. Zhou and Bo Xilai — a former Politburo member who was tried and convicted in 2013 — had “trampled on the rule of law, sabotaged party unity and engaged in nonorganization political activities.” That wording suggested that Mr. Zhou and Mr. Bo had, together or separately, engaged in political conspiracy.