China’s for­mer se­cu­rity chief gets life for graft

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DIDI TANG

China’s for­mer se­cu­rity chief was sen­tenced Thurs­day to life in pri­son on cor­rup­tion charges, in a victory for Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s anti-graft cam­paign seen as fur­ther ce­ment­ing his author­ity by re­mov­ing a po­ten­tial chal­lenger.

Zhou Yongkang, a for­mer mem­ber of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s all-pow­er­ful Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, is the big­gest tar­get to fall in Xi’s drive to end the long­stand­ing cul­ture of bribe tak­ing and in­flu­ence ped­dling among of­fi­cials.

The First In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court of Tian­jin said Zhou was sen­tenced af­ter be­ing tried May 22 on charges of re­ceiv­ing bribes, abuse of power and leak­ing state se­crets. The trial was held be­hind closed doors be­cause of the fi­nal charge.

Zhou, 72, was sen­tenced to lesser terms on the abuse of power and state se­crets charges, and was or­dered to serve his sen­tences con­cur­rently.

The sen­tence also man­dates the seizure of all of Zhou’s per­sonal as­sets.

While por­trayed sim­ply as a blow against cor­rup­tion, Zhou’s sen­tenc­ing re­moves a po­ten­tial chal­lenge to Xi’s author­ity and has been widely per­ceived as re­flect­ing fac­tional pol­i­tics within the rul­ing party’s up­per­most ech­e­lon.

Zhou is the high­est-rank­ing for­mer politi­cian to face court since the 1981 trea­son trial of Mao Ze­dong’s wife and other mem­bers of the “Gang of Four” who per­se­cuted po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents dur­ing the 1966-76 Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion.

The dour-faced and once-feared Zhou had been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion since late 2013, and has been un­avail­able for com­ment since then. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also scru­ti­nized Zhou’s for­mer al­lies in gov­ern­ment and the oil in­dus­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the court, Zhou re­ceived, di­rectly and in­di­rectly, a to­tal of 130 mil­lion yuan ( US$21 mil­lion) in bribes and used his in­flu­ence to al­low oth­ers to re­al­ize 2.1 bil­lion (US$343 mil­lion) in prof­its on busi­ness deal­ings that caused 1.4 bil­lion (US$229 mil­lion) in losses for the state trea­sury — pre­sum­ably through the sale of gov­ern­ment as- sets at be­low cost.

Zhou’s ac­tions “in­flicted enor­mous dam­age to public fi­nances and the in­ter­ests of the na­tion and the peo­ple,” the court said in an ex­pla­na­tion of the ver­dict on its web­site. China fre­quently moves sen­si­tive tri­als to other ju­ris­dic­tions to avoid wit­ness tam­per­ing and other po­ten­tial prob­lems.

The court said Zhou had ac­cepted its de­ci­sion and would not file an ap­peal. While the charges po­ten­tially man­dated a death sen­tence, it said Zhou re­ceived le­niency af­ter con­fess­ing and show­ing re­pen­tance and order­ing his rel­a­tives to hand over the ma­jor­ity of their ill-got­ten gains.

While the charges of abuse of power and leak­ing state se­crets were se­ri­ous, they had not re­sulted in any ma­jor con­se­quences, the court said.

“The court ren­dered the above ver­dict based on the facts of Zhou Yongkang’s crimes, their na­ture, cir­cum­stances and the de­gree of harm to so­ci­ety,” it said.

Zhou was once seen as un­touch­able, with a vast pa­tron­age net­work cov­er­ing the south­west­ern prov­ince of Sichuan where he used to be party boss to the state oil sec­tor, po­lice and courts.

He spent the early part of his ca­reer in the oil in­dus­try, ris­ing through the ranks over sev­eral decades to be­come the gen­eral manager of China Na­tional Petroleum Corp., one of the world’s big­gest en­ergy com­pa­nies, in 1996.

AP

In this im­age taken from video re­leased by China’s CCTV, Zhou Yongkang, for­merly the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber in charge of se­cu­rity, sits in a court­room at the First In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court of Tian­jin in Tian­jin, China on Thurs­day, June 11.

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