The highest level official to be targeted so far in an anti-corruption investigation after the 18th Party Congress has been detained and subjected to a secretive interrogation process, according to recent reports. The man targeted, Li Chuncheng, is also a noted fixer for former security czar Zhou Yongkang.
Preliminary reports appeared on Dec. 4 that Li was put under “shuanggui,” a Soviet-era procedure of interrogation and detention of Party officials. The news at one stage appeared on the Xinhua website, the official news agency of the Chinese regime, before the report was retracted. Other Chinese reports remain available.
Li appears to be the first high-level pelt in new Party leader’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign meant to cleanse the ranks after taking power.
Xi had warned the Party of his intention to do something about corruption. In his address to a study session for the newly formed Politburo in late November, he said, “Many facts tell us that as corruption continues it gets worse and worse, and in the end it will inevitably end the Party and ruin the country! We must be alert!”
Xi said recent incidents of corruption in the Party were “extremely vile in nature” and “horrible to behold.”
In the world of Chinese politics, Li’s punishment will likely be interpreted as a blow to his mentor Zhou Yongkang, the former powerful security chief. But whether Li was a sacrificial pawn for Zhou, or his interrogation signifies the beginning of a broader campaign against hard-line holdouts, remains unclear.
Zhou is a protégé of former regime leader Jiang Zemin, and gained extraordinary power in his tenure as security boss. The position of secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee (PLAC), which Zhou controlled, was downgraded in the recent leadership shuffle.
Zhou had served simultaneously as head of the PLAC and as a member of the Politburo Standing Committee—the small group that runs the Party. The combination made him almost unaccountable and helped make the PLAC part of a second center of power in the Party.
Now, the head of the PLAC sits on the 25-member Politburo, rather than on the 7-member Standing Committee, assuring that the powerful agency and its new head is kept on a leash.
After the news was published Monday, Li failed to turn up for a propaganda meeting Tuesday.
The financial magazine Caijing reported that the potential corruption Li was involved in related to the Chengdu Industry Investment Group Co. Ltd. overseen by businessman Dai Xiaoming. In September Caijing reported that Dai was put under investigation by the Party’s disciplinary body, and that under interrogation he may have given information about a number of officials.
According to the magazine Foreign Reference (waican), run by the Mingjing magazine, based outside China, Li is the “biggest business helper of Zhou Yongkang and his son.” According to Mingjing, Li oversaw their commercial interests in real estate, oil, petroleum, and various trust companies.
“This is the biggest tiger knocked down in the anti-corruption campaign and also sets up the future anti-corruption benchmark,” according to an insider speaking to Mingjing.
Li has been in Sichuan since the late 1990s, and was Party boss of its capital Chengdu from 2003 to 2011. He was made deputy chief of the province in 2011. This year at the 18th Party Congress Li was made an alternate member of the CCP’s Central Committee, a communist council that ostensibly elects the top leadership.
Mingjing wrote that, according to one of its sources, “The events have greatly unnerved the behind-the-scenes big brother, the recently retired politics and law commissar Zhou Yongkang.”
Ariel Tian contributed research.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.