Chinese Communist Party Expels Former Justice Minister in Latest Purge

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Beijing: Chinese Communist party has expelled its high-profile former justice minister and deputy police chief, denouncing him as being “extremely despicable” and accusing him of befriending “political frauds”.

Fu Zhenghua – who had reportedly helped bring down China’s former security chief Zhou Yongkang a few years ago – has been removed from public office over serious violations of party discipline and laws, said the state news agency Xinhua in a brief announcement that attributed the decisions to Beijing’s top anti-graft body.

The Chinese version of Thursday’s announcement – which has since been widely publicised across China’s tightly controlled media – hinted Fu’s case was related to that of Sun Lijun, who was last year accused of extreme “political ambition” and leading a corrupt and extravagant life.

“[Fu has] never been loyal to the party and the people; [he has] participated in Sun Lijun’s political gang; [he has] befriended several ‘political frauds’ for a long time,” the announcement said.

The investigation also found that Fu had for a long time carried guns in violation of regulations, engaged in superstitious activities for long, and resisted disciplinary and supervisory investigation into his case.

Fu is suspected of taking bribes and bending the law for personal gains, said the statement, adding that he showed no sign of restraint even after the 18th CPC National Congress.

His case will be transferred to the procuratorate for criminal investigation and prosecution together with the related property, said the statement.

Last October Fu was placed under investigation for “serious violations”. Dr Ling Li, an expert in Chinese politics and law at the University of Vienna, said that the fact that the case had now been transferred to the procuratorate for prosecution “shows that the investigator is satisfied with whatever evidence they have obtained for the criminal charge and the prosecution”.

Once a rising political star, Fu, 67, was appointed in 2013 to lead the investigation into China’s former security chief Zhou, who was jailed for life in 2015 for abuse of power and corruption. Fu’s role was regarded by some Chinese political observers to possibly indicate a close relationship with the top leader, Xi Jinping.

Fu Zhenghua seemed to have all the stars aligned for a high-flying official career. But instead, the 67-year-old has now become a target himself in Xi’s relentless crackdown on graft and disloyalty, which critics say has also been used to purge political rivals.

In Xi’s China, the purges of political rising stars and powerful officials have become a common occurrence. But what’s remarkable about Fu’s downfall is how widely it is being celebrated — both by people working for the regime and by those who have been subject to its repression.

Fu cut his teeth as a criminal investigator for the Beijing police. He first made his name in 2010 – just months after being named the city’s police chief – when he launched a prostitution crackdown on several high-end nightclubs said to have influential political connections.

His willingness to challenge the business interests of powerful families won him praise in state media and the trust of the leadership. In 2013, Xi appointed him to spearhead a graft probe into Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security tzar and retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in the party. Zhou was jailed for life in 2015 for corruption and abuse of power.

But Fu was not just taking on corrupt political elites. As the deputy minister of public security, in 2013 he unleashed a sweeping crackdown on opinion leaders on the Chinese social media site Weibo, detaining several high-profile commentators with large followings. He was also in charge of the nationwide roundup of human rights lawyers and activists in 2015, in what has become infamously known as the “709 crackdowns,” according to people close to the detained lawyers.

Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.

Yu Jianrong, a prominent Chinese sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, accused Fu of trying to silence him in 2010 for speaking out against Beijing’s alleged persecution of petitioners.”The targets of Fu Zhenghua’s crackdown are people at the core of China’s civil society. Therefore, the country’s whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace),” said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing.”His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China’s governance over the past decade.”

Fu’s heavy-handed approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, some of whom applauded their former boss’ downfall as “most gratifying.”

Commenting on social media, many accused Fu of imposing gruelling and unreasonably harsh requirements on grassroots officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.”After the downfall of a senior official in the judicial system, the vast grassroots police officers and lawyers all had the same reaction and united in celebration -it is not an easy thing to achieve for an official,” a columnist said on Weibo.

Fu is the latest senior official to be ensnared in Xi’s massive purge of China’s domestic security agencies, which was launched in 2020. Officials in China’s domestic security apparatus were urged to “turn the blade inwards and scrape the poison off the bone,” and to expose “two-faced people” who are disloyal and dishonest to the party.

A third deputy police chief and former head of the international policing agency Interpol was sentenced in 2020 to 13 and a half years in prison for corruption.

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