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China’s Top Disciplinary Body Moves Against Ex-Security Officials Fu Zhenghua, Sun Lijun

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China’s Top Disciplinary Body Moves Against Ex-Security Officials Fu Zhenghua, Sun Lijun

Under Xi Jinping it has become the norm for the Chinese Communist Party’s key anti-corruption body to oust senior public security officials who are disloyal or disliked.

China’s Top Disciplinary Body Moves Against Ex-Security Officials Fu Zhenghua, Sun Lijun
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz

Fu Zhenghua, a former Beijing Public Security Bureau chief and vice minister of public security, is suspected of a “serious breach of discipline and the law,” according to an announcement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) published on Saturday on the commission’s website.

His fall was revealed a day after the commission issued a withering condemnation of another former vice minister of public security, Sun Lijun, who has been under investigation since April last year.

Top officials in China who are removed for alleged abuse of power are not initially tried by the courts, but investigated by the CCDI, an internal governance mechanism within the highest reaches of the party. Only after the CCDI issues it own verdict will such cases move to a formal trial.

Fu Zhenghua became head of the Beijing Public Security Bureau in 2010 under President Hu Jintao and was promoted to vice minister of public security in 2013 under Xi.

He played a central role in the July 9, 2015 mass arrest of rights lawyers and civil society groups, often referred to as the 709 crackdown. In 2015-16, he also led the now-defunct “610 Office,” a subdivision of the Ministry of Public Security tasked with the suppression of Falun Gong and other alleged cults.

Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent rights lawyer in Beijing detained under Fu, welcomed the development, writing on WeChat: “Old Fu has fallen.”

The precise reason for Fu’s downfall is unclear. After Xi came to power in 2012, Fu strove to demonstrate fealty to the new leader and distance himself from the “Jiang faction” of officials associated with former top leader Jiang Zemin, who by that stage was in his mid-80s and had not held public office for nearly a decade.

Fu unswervingly backed Xi in taking down political rivals, including Politburo Standing Committee member and public security minister Zhou Yongkang as well as Hu aide Ling Jihua, who was chief of the CCP’s General Office.

In March 2012 Ling’s son died in an automobile accident after crashing his speeding Ferrari while engaging in sexual acts with two female passengers, who survived but were badly injured. At the time Ling sought to cover up the ensuing scandal with the help of Zhou. While Zhou was the public security minister, Fu, responsible at the time for public security operations in the capital, may have notified Xi, then the incoming president, of the incident, or at least refused to participate in the cover-up.

Zhou and Ling were both issued life sentences under the anti-corruption campaign, in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

This background apparently did not protect Fu from an investigation that may lead to a similar fate.

“It may have been that Xi saw in punishing Fu an opportunity to appease multiple different groups,” said California-based YouTuber Wong Kim in a webcast analyzing Fu’s career. “His downfall is widely applauded. And that helps Xi with a view to staying on as leader at the 20th Party Congress next year.”

Fu’s investigation by the CCDI has only begun, with scant details given, but last Thursday the commission published a 700-character denunciation of Sun Lijun after 17 months of investigation.

Declaring his expulsion from the party, the CCDI blasted Sun for his “extremely vast political ambitions, extremely bad political qualities, highly distorted views on power and political achievements, and arbitrary discussion of the party’s central policy guidelines.”

Such excoriation is unusual for the commission, as most verdicts are stern but brief.

Similar to Fu, Sun had been vice minister of public security and overseen the “610 Office” persecuting Falun Gong followers.

Online, observers have theorized that Sun’s “arbitrary discussion” of government policy may have been at the core of the CCDI’s vitriolic rebuke. Sun was rumored to have failed to keep a lid on sensitive information about the handling of the novel coronavirus.

In the early months of 2020, Sun went to Wuhan to contribute to stability maintenance in the city. According to an unsourced rumor, Sun wrote notes regarding the party’s handling of the situation in Wuhan to his Sydney-based wife, which were intercepted by Australian intelligence agencies.

Sun’s arrest in April last year coincided with the arrest of Zhang Feng, an executive of Tencent, the company that owns WeChat, for failure to protect data security. This, according to Toronto-based independent journalist Wen Zhao, lends credence to the possibility that Sun and Zhang were targeted together for leaking information, intentionally or otherwise, about the management of COVID-19.

To the Party Central Committee, Sun’s actions were appalling enough to prompt it on Friday to direct cadres to “Resolutely and thoroughly eliminate the poisonous influence of Sun Lijun.”

“Always maintain a high degree of ideological and political action with the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core,” the notice from the Central Committee said.