“Political Clique” Purged from State Security Apparatus Ahead of Party Congress

Sun Lijun and Fu Zhenghua, powerful former ministers of China’s state security apparatus, have been sentenced to death with two years’ compensation for corruption and other crimes. These sentences are usually commuted to life in prison without parole. The timing of the rulings and the allegation that Sun led a “political cabal” that was disloyal to Xi Jinping place the two cases squarely in the shadow of the upcoming 20th Party Congress, which opens in end of this month. A number of less senior police chiefs were also convicted in connection with the Sun and Fu cases. The Associated Press reported on Sun’s ruling:

Sun was convicted by a court in the northeastern city of Changchun of taking 646 million yuan ($91 million) in bribes, China Central TV reported on its website.

Sun was accused of using his official position in 2018 to manipulate stock trading to help a trader avoid losses. He was also accused of selling official jobs and abandoning his post during the COVID-19 outbreak.

[…] The ruling party’s anti-corruption agency accused Sun last year of “highly inflated political ambition”. He said he engaged in unspecified “superstitious activities.” [Source]

In a documentary against state production graft published earlier this year, Sun, who was behind bars at the time, recalled receiving annual boxed “seafood” gifts from a provincial official that were actually filled with $300,000 in cash, totaling 15 million dollars over the years. Sun was also involved in corruption in the United States. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice sued casino mogul Steven Wynn, alleging that he had acted as a foreign agent of the Chinese government…Sun allegedly pressured him to call for billionaire Guo Wengui to be placed on a no-fly list. In 2017, Guo Wengui equalized unverified claims of corruption against Sun and others.

A number of other officials have sided with Sun, accused of taking part in his “clique”. In The South China Morning Post, William Zheng reported sentence of the former Minister of Justice Fu Zhenghua:

Fu was convicted of accepting 117 million yuan (US$16.6 million) in bribes and using his position to cover up his brother’s crimes, CCTV reported. Wang was found guilty of accepting more than 440 million yuan in bribes and covering up the triad’s activities and forging identity documents.

[…] The court said Fu Zhenghua had admitted all charges, shown remorse and provided information to investigators about other corruption cases. But he said there would be no further commutation or parole after Fu’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison after the two-year suspension due to “serious harm to the country and society”.

The court described the bribes received by Fu as “particularly significant”, the circumstances of his crimes as “particularly serious” and their social impact “particularly serious”.

[…] The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, said Fu had “lost his party spirit and principles” and accused Fu of colluding with Sun, the former vice minister of public safety who pleaded guilty in July to accepting bribes. stock market manipulation and illegal possession of firearms. [Source]

The former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi Province were as well convicted of corruption and accused of conniving with Sun Lijun. State media called them “two-faced” people. Liu Yanping, who headed the Party’s anti-corruption arm within the Ministry of State Security, was expelled from the party in September for his alleged involvement with Sun. His expulsion opens the way to a long prison sentence. Wan Like, the provincial official who gave Sun the aforementioned “seafood” boxes, was also convicted of corruption and given a suspended death sentence. Xi has warned that the “stubbornness and danger” of corruption has not abated despite a decade-long campaign against it. However, the extraordinary series of corruption charges linked to an alleged political cabal does not appear to be simply a matter of graft. In the Financial Times, Edward White interviewed Chinese political experts about the political implications of the latest crackdown on corruption:

“This was clearly a warning . . . against overt acts of factionalism and disobedience of Xi Jinping’s dictates before the 20th Party Congress and beyond,” said Victor Shih, a professor of Chinese political economy at the University of California , San Diego.

[…] Yuen Yuen Ang, an expert on the political economy of China at the University of Michigan, said it was “hard to believe” that the latest cases were “routine” given the sensitivity of the moment. “Sometimes the crackdown on corruption is about reducing graft and other times they are a political tool,” he said.

[…] “Because Leninist regimes are ruled by men, not laws, any new leader must rely overwhelmingly on purging rivals and promoting loyalists within the regime to consolidate power and implement his programs.” said Wu Guoguang. [who worked as an adviser to former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang and is now at the University of Victoria, Canada]. [Source]

Ironically, Fu Zhenghua’s sentence coincided with the release of his former law school classmate Zhou Shifeng, a human rights lawyer jailed for seven years on charges of subversion. Zhou was one of 300 lawyers arrested as part of the 2015 crackdown.”709 repression” on human rights lawyers. Wang Quanzhang, Zhou’s friend and former human rights lawyer also imprisoned by the crackdown, spoke with Zhou and relayed his comments in the South China Morning Post: “Zhou considers the repression of 709 to be an important historical, political and legal event. The lawyers and human rights defenders involved in this event are important contributors to the history of the rule of law and human rights protection in China.” Wang added that Zhou “greeted Fu [Zhenghua’s] conviction with relief”.

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