A group of retired Communist Party officials have signed a petition calling on two of China’s top leaders, including security chief Zhou Yongkang, to resign as the political aftershock of the Bo Xilai scandal continues to reverberate through the party. From The New York Times:
In a petition that began to circulate Wednesday on social media and overseas Web sites, the 16 signers — all of them retired midlevel officials in the southern province of Yunnan — accused Mr. Zhou of supporting the fallen party leader Bo Xilai, who was suspended from his posts amid reports that he helped cover up a murder and abused power.
“We still care about the future of the country,” said one of the signers, Wu Zhibo, 84, a former vice head of a vocational school in the city of Zhaotong.
Mr. Zhou is widely thought to have backed Mr. Bo’s methods and opposed his ouster. A member of the all-powerful nine-member Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo, Mr. Zhou is also the head of the Central Political and Legislative Committee. He is widely associated with the “stability maintenance” program that has led to heavy online censorship and tight control of the news media.
Zhou is expected to retire later this year as part of the highly anticipated leadership transition that will likely see Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang take over as President and Prime Minister, respectively, but signs have emerged that the party may have already taken steps to marginalize his influence. On Sunday, The Financial Times’ Jamil Anderlini reported that Zhou has already given up day-to-day control of China’s security machine:
On paper and in public, Zhou Yongkang, who is due to step down later this year as part of a broader leadership transition, retains his title as secretary of the ruling Communist party’s political and legislative affairs committee. He is also part of the nine-member politburo standing committee, which effectively runs China.
But according to three senior party members and diplomats briefed on the subject he has handed operational control of the pervasive Chinese security apparatus to Meng Jianzhu, the current minister of public security.
In addition to handing over daily control of the security apparatus, Mr Zhou has also been forced to make a “confession” to his colleagues on the standing committee for his errors of judgment in trying to protect Mr Bo, according to people familiar with the matter.
He will also not have the right to choose his successor in the political reshuffle that will happen at the 18th Communist Party Congress in autumn, according to these people.
One source also described the current political headwinds facing the party as ““a symptom of the ideological struggle caused by disagreement over which direction the country should go in,” according to The Financial Times.