Former Head of ‘Chinese Gestapo’ Suddenly Replaced in China’s Legal and Security Apparatus
Former Head of ‘Chinese Gestapo’ Suddenly Replaced in China’s Legal and Security Apparatus

News analysis

A top Chinese security official who won favor with the present Chinese Communist Party leadership by informing on his political patron, and once ran a Gestapo-like organization, was abruptly sidelined.

Fu Zhenghua, the Chinese regime’s vice minister for public security, will “no longer serve” on the committee of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) on Aug. 18, according to the website of the PLAC. Huang Ming, a deputy director in the public security ministry, replaces Fu on the PLAC leadership committee.

The PLAC is a small but powerful Communist Party organization that regulates legal institutions like the courts, the procuratorate, and the prisons. It also oversees the police and paramilitary.

Fu leaving the PLAC is a step down for him because he loses significant influence over the country’s security affairs. It is unusual for top Chinese officials in the prime of their careers to suddenly “no longer serve” in key positions; Fu, 61, has four good years left before hitting retirement age.

Fu’s premature loss of a political appointment suggests that he no longer has Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s favor.

When Xi was looking to remove a key member of a rival Party faction, the former security czar and Fu’s patron Zhou Yongkang, Fu sold out Zhou, according to reports by several media outlets based in Hong Kong. These media noted that Fu’s betrayal allowed him to escape punishment even though he was a close associate of Zhou.

Zhou Yongkang, former Politburo member Bo Xilai, and former military vice chairs Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong are key lieutenants of former Party chief Jiang Zemin. Xi Jinping has purged elements of Jiang’s faction through an anti-corruption campaign because Jiang sought to undermine and eventually displace Xi—a plot Xi alluded to in numerous speeches made in 2015.

Although Fu Zhenghua decided to switch allegiances, Xi might not fully trust Fu, or want to continue their association because the veteran public security official played a prominent role in Jiang Zemin’s pet project—the persecution of Falun Gong.

Under Jiang’s orders, the Chinese regime’s security and legal apparatus arrested, tortured, and killed practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that involves slow exercises and adhering to teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Over 70 million Chinese citizens were practicing Falun Gong before the persecution.

Incomplete figures from Minghui.org, a clearinghouse of information about the persecution, shows over 4,000 practitioners killed, and hundreds of thousands of others incarcerated at any one point. Researchers say Falun Gong practitioners were the main source of organs used by the regime for the 1.5 million organ transplants it carried out since around 2000 to 2015.

The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), an international nonprofit, holds Fu Zhenghua responsible for several persecution cases in Beijing when he headed the Chinese capital’s municipal public security bureau from 2010 to 2013.

In September 2015, Fu took over the “610 Office,” an extralegal Party organization created by Jiang Zemin to oversee the persecution of Falun Gong. While Fu was in charge, local branches of the 610 Office actively interfered with Falun Gong practitioners who were filing criminal complaints against Jiang. The 610 Office’s retaliation was the most severe in northeast China.

This May, Fu was replaced as head of the secretive 610 Office by public security deputy director Huang Ming in May, according to Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao. Huang hasn’t yet been connected with active persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, nor is he identified by WOIPFG as a persecutor.

The Xi Jinping leadership has appeared to distance itself from the brutal legacy of Jiang, particularly in recent months.

Near “sensitive dates” of the persecution, Xi made several reconciliatory gestures towards Falun Gong—”reasonable” and “lawful” petitioning was condoned, brutal security apparatus heads were purged, and the PLAC met in the birthplace of Falun Gong to discuss redressing the miscarriages of justice perpetuated by the regime.

In the Chinese regime, sometimes significant messages are communicated in a highly coded manner. These gestures suggest that the Xi’s regime is considering the possibility of shifting its stance on Falun Gong.

Viewed from this vantage, the easing out of Fu Zhenghua and the appointment of Huang Ming might serve the purpose of ensuring no split interests in the PLAC, the regime body that could end up rehabilitating Falun Gong and serving justice to persecutors. 

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