More than four months after the official announcement of a disciplinary investigation into Zhou Yongkang, China’s former domestic security chief has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party. Since Zhou was last seen in public in October of 2013, hundreds of his family members and associates have been investigated, questioned, or detained and more than 90 billion yuan in assets seized. The retired Politburo Standing Committee member has reportedly been under “virtual house arrest” since December of last year. The New York Times reports on Zhou’s arrest and expulsion, which becomes the highest level Party impeachment in China in over 30 years:
The former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, is the highest-ranking party leader to be prosecuted since the Gang of Four, including Mao Zedong’s widow, Jiang Qing, were put on trial 34 years ago in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.
Xinhua, the official news agency, said in a terse announcement that the decision to expel Mr. Zhou, 72, had been made at a meeting on Friday of the party’s powerful Politburo. It said he also had been placed “under judicial probe,” laying the basis for a prosecution. […] [Source]
The Guardian’s Jonathan Kaiman relays the official Xinhua statement on Zhou, noting that state media has kept quiet on the retired official since announcing the investigation in July:
Xinhua said members of the standing committee of the politburo, the country’s highest governing body, decided on Friday to revoke Zhou’s party membership and transfer his case and “relevant clues” to China’s judicial authorities “to deal with them in accordance with the law”.
[…] “Upon investigation, Zhou Yongkang seriously violated the party’s political, organisational and confidential discipline,” Xinhua said. “He used his position to give illegal benefits to many people, and took bribes directly and via his family members; abused his position to help his family members, mistresses and friends gain huge profits through business activities at the cost of state assets; leaked party and state secrets; severely breached regulations of corruption by taking a great amount of assets belonging to other people; committed adultery with a number of women, and traded money and power for sexual advantages.”
His actions have “greatly harmed the party’s image,” Xinhua continued, “and have caused great losses to the party and the people”. [Source]
The investigation into Zhou is part of Xi Jinping’s ongoing crackdown on corruption at all levels of Party leadership, which over the past two years has seen nearly 75,000 Party members investigated. The BBC reports that analysts say the investigation into Zhou Yongkang “allows Xi Jinping to consolidate his power base, remove people opposed to his reforms, and improve the image of the Communist Party.” Zhou was “arguably the most powerful man in China” when he retired from leadership in 2012.
Update 12/05/2014, 15:00 PST: CDT Chinese editors have selected several netizen comments on Zhou’s expulsion, a few of which are translated below:
潘紫幽pzy: Commit a crime and you’re sent back to be among the commoners. What does this mean, that we ordinary people are just a garbage heap?(December 6, 2014)
释不归: I just want to know, who is “Several Woman” anyway? Why are officials so fond of committing adultery with her? (December 6, 2014)
小李的那点破事: Again, committing adultery with “several women” The fallen are all [presented as] Heshen and Ximen Qing, the victorious all Hai Rui and Liuxia Hui. Really, it makes me nauseous. (December 6, 2014)
Like his ally Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing Party Chief who was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption charges last year, the official list of Zhou’s misdeeds includes adultery with “several women” (多名女性 duō míng nǚxìng). The phrase has since become a marker of a fallen official.