Former Security Tsar “Under Virtual House Arrest”
Reuters Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard report that former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang has been placed under “virtual house arrest”:
Zhou is being investigated for violating party discipline, official jargon for corruption, the sources said. They did not say what the specific allegations were.
[…] In ordering the investigation, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Standing Committee will not be investigated after retirement.
But Xi has yet to decide whether Zhou would be publicly prosecuted, pending completion of the internal probe, the sources said. Xi has declared war on corruption, vowing to go after powerful “tigers” like Zhou as well as lowly “flies”.
[…] “Zhou Yongkang is a toothless tiger and tantamount to a dead tiger. The question is: will Xi skin the tiger?” the source said, referring to a trial. [Source]
Reuters has previously challenged claims that Zhou was being targeted, but reported a week ago that his son was in “quasi-detention” as part of an investigation amid persistent rumors that Zhou himself was also being held. Former Mexican ambassador to China Jorge Guajardo tweeted last week that “sources in Hong Kong” had confirmed this speculation.
At Tea Leaf Nation, David Wertime and Lotus Yuen noted that what little discussion has arisen about Zhou’s fate on China’s social web has been heavily coded:
[… O]fficially, at least, Zhou is still a respected former top official, and speculating about his downfall online could have consequences. Amid such restrictions, a small group of enterprising Chinese netizens have resorted to inventive turns of phrase to discuss Zhou’s increasingly shaky situation. Referring to Zhou as “Master Kang,” a popular brand of instant noodles, has been a favorite trope since at least early 2012 — it also harks back to fearsome former security chief Kang Sheng — without tipping off censors. Mister Kang, or Kang Yongzhou, merely rearranges parts of his name, but also occasionally gets through.
Users of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, got a new arrow in their quiver on Dec. 8 when North Korea’s Communist Party confirmed it had engineered a purge of its own, expelling Jang Song-thaek, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, and, until recently, one of the country’s most powerful men. Chinese state media widely reported Jang’s ouster, allegedly for crimes including leading a “dissolute and depraved” life. This provided a way for netizens keen to invoke Zhou. One user wrote, “Jang Song-thaek = instant noodles; does anyone get me?” […] [Source]