Never-Ending Purges And Perpetual Fears

PURGES ARE PERENNIALS rather than projects in China. The official who led the investigation in the highest-ranking victim of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is himself now being purged.

Fu Zhenghua, who was China’s second most senior law enforcement official, is under investigation for ‘severe violations of party discipline and law’, according to an announcement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection dated Oct. 2. Fu was reportedly detained in Chongqing in mid-September.

Fu is deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Previously, he was justice minister (2018-20) and before that, vice minister of public security (2013-18). He was appointed to that post after leading a crackdown on Beijing’s sex industry as the city’s deputy police chief.

When he was vice minister of public security in 2013-18, Fu led campaigns against municipal police officers and against rights activists and lawyers perceived as dissidents, including the ‘709’ detentions of lawyers that started on July 9, 2015.

Before that, Fu had led the investigation that took down former public security minister Zhou Yongkang, who ran the euphemistically named ‘stability maintenance’ system with a fist of iron. Zhou was jailed for life in June 2015 after being found guilty in a secret trial of bribe-taking, abuse of power and disclosure of state secrets. Zhou was also suspected of complicity in former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai’s aborted coup plot against President Xi Jinping.

The announcement of Fu’s detention came two days after a statement that former Vice Minister of Public Security Sun Lijun, a compadre of Fu in the campaigns against dissident civil society, had been expelled from the Party. He, too, faces a likely secret trial and imprisonment for corruption.

Reading between the lines, it sounds as if Sun is guilty mainly of disloyalty to the highest leadership. The mention in state media that he had privately stashed away a trove of confidential documents does not bode well for him.

The two detentions have been greeted with some pleasure within both police and civil society. No love lost there.

They also hint at elite discontent with Xi, although the two men are far from the first prominent figures in the state-Party repression apparatus to be purged since Xi took control. It is unlikely they will be the last in the run-up to next year’s Party Congress.

Some powerful figures will be anxiously looking over their shoulders. Fu and Sun’s falls from grace demonstrate Xi retains the capacity to punish disloyalty and head off threats. Yet they also highlight the perpetual fears of top leadership in any authoritarian state: that those it tasks with enforcing domestic security to maintain regime stability could also turn against it.

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