In an apparently unscripted response to a question from a South China Morning Post reporter, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) spokesman Lü Xinhua gave the first official indication yet that former security chief Zhou Yongkang may face charges. From Keith Zhai at the South China Morning Post:
The hint, the strongest so far that the leadership will soon make the case public, was dropped after the South China Morning Post asked Lv Xinhua, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), whether Zhou was being investigated.
At a press conference ahead of the annual session starting today, Lv sidestepped the question but stressed that “anyone who violates the party’s discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is”.
[…] He added: “Since last year, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision have conducted investigations or announced punishment for 31 top officials, including some at ministerial level.
“Our serious investigation and punishment of party members and cadres, including some senior officials, indicates that what we stated was not empty words. I can only say so much so far. You know what I’m saying.” [Source]
Lü’s response was quickly picked up by netizens and took on a life on its own. The Lowy Interpreter tracks media and Weibo responses:
After the press conference, posts and hashtags of ‘you know what I mean’ (or literally, from the Chinese, ‘you understand’) lit up the Chinese messaging app WeChat. On Weibo, a Chinese platform similar to Twitter, popular microbloggers (known as ‘Big Vs’) started posting irreverent messages alluding to comments from the press conference.
Social media users appeared excited that Mr Lu’s honest conclusion to the question — ‘I can only give you this answer, you know what I mean’ — had strayed from pre-scripted comments, a rarity for the Chinese Government. His answer seemed to have a genuinely human element to it. ‘In reality, (the comment) “you know what I mean” narrows the gap between politics and the public’, ran an op-ed in The Beijing Times today.
[…] In all the excitement, even the official Tencent Weibo account of Xinhua, China’s official news agency, posted a message titled ‘continue to fight corruption, you know what I mean!’. The post was subsequently edited so that ‘you know what I mean’ was deleted. [Source]
The official Global Times reported on the response, concluding that, “The speech, along with the recent wave of media reports about people connected to Zhou Yongkang, has led many to wonder whether overseas media reports claiming Zhou Yongkang is being probed are true or not.”
Regardless of what Lü’s statement really meant, the investigation surrounding Zhou Yongkang is closing in with the detention of his brother and sister-in-law. From AFP:
Zhou Yuanqing and his businesswoman wife Zhou Lingying were taken away from their home in Wuxi in the eastern province of Jiangsu on December 1 by “discipline investigators from Beijing”, the Beijing News said.
The husband is a brother of Zhou Yongkang, according to the report, who amassed huge power during his time as China’s security chief and retired as a member of the Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in late 2012.
The wife was a major investor in a multi-million-dollar Audi dealership and her success “had a lot to do” with Zhou Yongkang’s son Zhou Bin, the newspaper added. [Source]
Zhou Bin, meanwhile, has become the focus of official media accounts, which link his questionable business dealings with advantages provided by his father. From Zhang Hong at the South China Morning Post:
An article on news portal Sohu.com said yesterday that Zhou Bin’s empire had been built on “the name of the father”.
[…] People.com.cn, a website affiliated with People’s Daily, reran the article. The China Youth Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Youth League, also ran a commentary questioning how the vested interests behind Zhou Bin were formed.
“Zhou Bin used his powerful government resources to obtain land he resold for a hefty profit. He could make corrupt deals because of the advantages he enjoyed, which were secured by powerful politicians intervening in business,” it said.
A journalist who has investigated Zhou Bin but requested anonymity said his newspaper had not received orders to avoid reports about the son. “I guess the authorities want to use the media to crack the Zhou family’s case and build up the right media environment, just as they did before with Bo Xilai,” referring to the fallen former Chongqing party boss. [Source]
Global Times published a report titled, “Media expose Zhou Bin’s ‘white gloves’” which summed up recent media coverage of his case. Read more about Zhou Yongkang, including a recent post about the detention of a State Security official and others in connection with his case, via CDT.