On April 3, Good Friday, Zhou Yongkang, former Politburo Standing Committee member and former secretary of the Central Politics and Law Commission, was officially indicted on charges of “bribery, abuse of power, and intentional disclosure of state secrets.”
According to a report from Xinhua, Zhou Yongkang took advantage of his posts to offer interests to others and illegally accepted a huge amount of money and property. His abuse of power was called particularly serious with bad social impacts, resulting in grave losses of public property and damaging the interests of the country. The report said Zhou also intentionally disclosed state secrets; this act was also called particularly serious.
Apparently, Zhou’s alleged criminal activities can be traced to the late 1980s when he became deputy general manager of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). In the subsequent 20-plus years, Zhou is alleged to have amassed a huge fortune for himself and his family. Among those who have been detained for investigation in connection with Zhou are his son, his daughter-in-law, his in-laws, his brothers, his nephew, his personal secretaries, his guards, and his subordinates.
In the same period, Zhou rose from a cadre of the vice-ministerial rank to the pinnacle of the Chinese political hierarchy. He was promoted to general manager of CNPC in 1996 and appointed founding minister of Land and Resources in 1998 under Premier Zhu Rongji. He was transferred to Sichuan as party secretary in 1999 and was made a Politburo member in 2002. In March 2003, he was concurrently appointed as minister of public security and state councilor under Premier Wen Jiabao. He was further elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 under General Secretary Hu Jintao.
It is hard to believe Zhou, a rising political star, had been a corrupt official all along. On December 5, 2002 in Chengdu (capital city of Sichuan), Sun Xiaoqun, deputy director of the Central Organization Department, announced that Zhou, a newly elected Politburo member, would no longer be party secretary of Sichuan. Sun gave high praises to Zhou as a loyal, capable, dedicated, and decent communist leader. Two days later, in Beijing, He Guoqiang, director of the Central Organization Department and a Politburo member, introduced Zhou as a new minister of Public Security and also highly praised him as a leader with rich experiences in state enterprises, central state organs, and the provinces. Ironically, Zhou was also described as a leader who places “strict demands on himself.”
Five years later, on October 28, 2007, Li Yuanchao, the then-director of the Central Organization Department and a Politburo member as well as a member of the Central Secretariat, announced that Zhou, a newly elected Politburo Standing Committee member, would no longer be minister of Public Security. Li applauded Zhou’s great achievements as a minister of public security in the previous five years and described the years under Zhou’s leadership as one of the “best periods” in history.
Now, under investigation, Zhou turned out to have been corrupt all these years. That raises the question of how to distinguish between a corrupt official and a clean one. In other words, are those who are currently considered uncorrupt seen as clean only because they have not been investigated? A popular saying in China captures the situation very nicely: officials not under investigation are all role models; once under investigation, they are all corrupt.
It is beyond doubt that Zhou will have to face the death penalty. As the first Politburo Standing Committee member to be indicted for corruption in the history of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou’s fate could go one of two ways. He could be given a suspended death penalty, or he could be executed right away.
Could Zhou be “crucified” to cleanse the Party?