Former Security Chief Zhou Yongkang Sentenced to Life in Prison

A Tianjin court sentenced former security chief Zhou Yongkang to life in prison and confiscation of personal assets on Thursday for “accepting bribes, abusing power and deliberately disclosing .” From Xinhua:

The court heard his case on May 22. Involving disclosure of state secrets, Zhou’s trial was not open to the public. Zhou pleaded guilty and will not appeal.

Zhou was convicted of taking bribes of about 130 million yuan (21.3 million U.S. dollars), said the court judgement.

[…] Zhou leaked five “extremely confidential” documents and one “confidential” document to an unauthorized person identified as Cao Yongzheng, directly contravening of the State Secret Law.

[…] In his final statement, Zhou accepted the charges. “The basic facts are clear. I plead guilty and repent my wrongdoing,” he said.

[…] “The handling of my case in accordance with Party rules and the law reflects the authorities’ determination to govern the Party strictly and advance the rule of law,” Zhou added. [Source]

Cao Yongzheng is reportedly a fortune teller and healer known also as “the Xinjiang Sage.”

A white-haired Zhou appeared in court on state broadcaster CCTV, but his was only the fifth story on its flagship evening news broadcast, after an item on food safety.

In March, Supreme People’s Court president Zhou Qiang promised that Zhou’s trial would be “open in accordance with the law.” The state secrets charges that prevented this may, according to recent reports, have involved his spying on other leaders and attempting to warn his protégé Bo Xilai of his own impending downfall.

Following the sentencing of journalist Gao Yu on state secrets charges in April, Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin tweeted that “the definition of what is a State secret is over-broad and open ended,” and that “even publicly available information can be considered a state secret if communicated abroad.” Such charges, he added, “have long been the weapon of choice to silence critics, dissenters, journalists and party foe [….] In short: the state secret system in China is both an internal information distribution system and an omnipresent censorship system.”

News of the probe against Zhou last July followed months of speculation as one former ally after another came under investigation. Its public announcement unleashed a pent-up torrent of often irreverent coverage in Chinese media. Zhou is not only the biggest “tiger” bagged in Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign: as a former Politburo Standing Committee member he is the most senior official to fall in decades, and his case breaks a long-standing convention against pursuing retired leaders. Some hailed this as potential proof of the Party’s claims that no one in China is above the law, but others have argued that Zhou simply fell into the jaws of the machinery that he, as head of state security, helped build.