News / Asia

China’s Former Security Chief Reportedly Target of Corruption Investigation

FILE - U.S. Admiral Thad Allen speaks with former Chinese Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang in 2006.
FILE - U.S. Admiral Thad Allen speaks with former Chinese Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang in 2006.
China’s former domestic security chief who directed crackdowns on dissidents and others who ran afoul of China’s security services is now himself reportedly under investigation on corruption charges.   The emerging case is a rare example of public scrutiny of China’s top leadership.  However analysts question whether the investigation of 71-year-old Zhou Yongkang is a real quest to root out malfeasance among present and former senior Chinese officials, or just the latest Beijing power struggle. 
 
Zhou Yongkang, who was Minister of Public Security from 2002 to 2007 and retired in 2012, is said to be under scrutiny for alleged graft, largely connected to activities during his years directing China’s National Petroleum Corporation, and his subsequent term as Minister of Land and Natural Resources.  The probe is also said to involve Zhou’s term as the Party Secretary in Sichuan Province.  So far Zhou has not been officially charged with any crimes, and officials have yet to confirm that an investigation is even underway.
 
Zhou’s eldest son, Zhou Bin, is also reportedly under the magnifying glass in this case. 
 
China customarily has its Central Commission for Discipline Inspection investigate high level officials before criminal charges are filed.  Media reports say the Commission plans to schedule a meeting soon with journalists where officials may discuss the Zhou case.  
 
One close observer, Pin Ho, CEO of Mirror Books in New York, says Zhou’s stature in the government and party hierarchies compels that this probe be orchestrated from the highest levels.
 
“The case involves too many people” Pin said. “It involves too many people who are behind the scenes. It is very sensitive because he is the highest level official in the Communist Party of China’s history involved in corruption. It is also the first time in 20 years a case has involved a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, breaking the common practice of “not punishing a standing committee member.” For Xi Jinping, this is an extremely difficult decision that requires courage.”
 
But others assert that President Xi’s actions may well reflect political maneuvering rather than a desire to identify and punish corruption.
 
Beijing-based historian Zhang Lifan is quoted in the Los Angeles Times newspaper as saying “Among all the people I talk to, there is a consensus that this is a power struggle.”
 
During last August’s  trial and conviction of former Chongquing Party Secretary Bo Xiliai, allegations surfaced that Zhou may have used domestic security elements to attempt to cover up the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, who was given a suspended death sentence.  Bo Xiliai, and former president Jiang Zemin, are reportedly members of a rival political faction to President Xi. It was during President Jiang’s tenure that Zhou served as land minister and then Sichuan party secretary. Some analysts say this is at the core of the actions being taken against Zhou, including Chinese University of Hong Kong adjunct professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam, who told Bloomberg News “Corruption is a pretext. The main issue is still factional struggle.”
 
In China’s government and political culture, appearances are very important.  And to observer Pin Ho, whatever actions are taken against Zhou will be draped with the appearance of legitimacy:
 
“I’m more inclined to think that in an effort to strengthen Xi Jinping’s authority and to attempt to rule the country by law, it is very possible that Zhou will be put on a public trial. At least there will be a judicial procedure to a certain degree,” he said.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs