China’s former security chief Zhou Yongkang charged with bribery, abuse of power

April 3, 2015 2:24 pm

Chinese courts are closely controlled by the ruling party and a guilty verdict is a certainty.

Days after his arrest, the Communist Party’s flagship
People’s Daily newspaper branded Zhou a “traitor” and likened him to
several past turncoats who were all executed.

In this March 9, 2012 file photo, Zhou Yongkang, right, then Chinese
Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of
security, listens to Wang Lequan during a plenary session of the
National People’s Congress in Beijing. Prosecutors said Friday that Zhou
is charged with corruption and leaking of state secrets. | AP

 
BEIJING – ’s once-feared
former security chief Zhou Yongkang was charged Friday with bribery,
abuse of power and disclosing state secrets, authorities said, making
him the most senior official prosecuted in decades and setting the stage
for a dramatic trial.

Zhou is the most prominent victim of President Xi Jinping’s
much-publicised anti-corruption drive, which has targeted high-level
“tigers” as well as low-level “flies.”

He had a background in the oil industry and accumulated vast
power as he rose through the ranks to become a member of the Communist
Party’s elite Politburo Standing Committee, the most powerful body in
China.

“The defendant Zhou Yongkang . . . took advantage of his
posts to seek gains for others and illegally took huge property and
assets from others, abused his power, causing huge losses to public
property and the interests of the State and the people,” said the
indictment, posted online by prosecutors.

“The social impact is vile and the circumstances were
extraordinarily severe,” it said, adding that he also “intentionally
leaked state secrets.”

The document was filed with a court in the northern port of Tianjin, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate added.

Chinese courts are closely controlled by the ruling party and a guilty verdict is a certainty.

Days after his arrest, the Communist Party’s flagship
People’s Daily newspaper branded Zhou a “traitor” and likened him to
several past turncoats who were all executed.

The proceedings will be the most significant in China since
the Gang of Four, who included Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing, were put
on trial and blamed for the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

Officials have promised that it will be open in accordance
with Chinese law, but attendance at previous high-profile cases has been
closely controlled.

When former high-flyer Bo Xilai — who fell from grace after a
scandal erupted around the killing of a British businessman — was
prosecuted for bribery, nonofficial media were limited to a “live”
written transcript of the proceedings, whose accuracy was impossible to
verify independently.

Zhou’s fall sent shock waves through the ruling party. After
months of rumors, party authorities announced last July they were
investigating him, and he was expelled from the party and formally
arrested in December.

Communist authorities have touted the anti-corruption drive
as a root-and-branch reform of the party over an issue that causes deep
and widespread public anger.

But critics note that China has failed to implement
institutional safeguards against graft, such as public asset disclosure,
an independent judiciary, and free media, leaving the effort at risk of
being used for political faction-fighting.

The China Communist Party is riven by factional divisions but consistently seeks to present a united front to outsiders.

Several of Zhou’s allies have also been brought down in the
campaign, among them Jiang Jiemin, the former head of the body that
regulates China’s state-owned firms.

He is a former head of the China National Petroleum
Corporation, a post previously held by Zhou, and the two are reportedly
part of a Communist Party faction with roots in the oil industry, known
as the “petroleum gang.”

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