According to a source close to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the former vice chairman of China, Zeng Qinghong, has been arrested and is now in detention in the city of Tianjin.
Epoch Times reported in May that Zeng was under investigation and a form of “internal control,” making his movements restricted and his media appearances tightly circumscribed. The latter was apparent from the lack of mention of Zeng in official media outlets for many months, in contrast to similarly ranked former officials, and in light of mention of Zeng’s movements in nonofficial media outlets and his exclusion from note or attendance at official events.
Zeng, who at the peak of his power was a member of the Party’s top ruling organ, the Politburo Standing Committee, was for much of his career the closest confidant of previous paramount leader of China Jiang Zemin, who ruled as Party chief from 1989 to 2002. Jiang stayed on another two years as head of the Party committee in charge of the military. Jiang and Zeng’s ties go back to their time in Shanghai in the 1980s.
Zeng Qinghong is generally known as a consummate political operator, having enjoyed key posts in the petroleum sector, in charge of appointments in the internal Party bureaucracy, and in heading up Hong Kong affairs. He has been described as Jiang’s “hatchet-man,” ready-to-hand with a conspiracy to take down a political opponent. It is this penchant for plotting against enemies that moved Xi to neutralize Zeng, sources in China said, lest Zeng’s designs threaten Xi’s own position.
Given the notorious secrecy of the Chinese Communist Party and its internecine power struggles, analysts have for decades relied on proxies such as attendance at meetings, mention in the official press, and other indicators, to tell of the political health of various elite officials and former officials.
Zeng’s last public appearance took place on May 14, when he posed for a photograph with Shanghai city Party officials and a son of Jiang Zemin, Jiang Mianheng. No official media channels reported on the appearance, and it was noted as a “private activity” in other reports. Zeng was, on the other hand, pointedly excluded from mention among those who sent condolences after the death of a well-known Hong Kong filmmaker last year, a sign to observers of Chinese politics that his political position was in trouble.
The arrest of Zeng Qinghong, and his detention in Tianjin, according to the source, indicate that the investigation against him has progressed. It is unclear whether or when there will be a public announcement about Zeng’s status.
Because Xi has no personal responsibility for the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice, his elevation to general secretary was viewed with alarm by members of Jiang Zemin’s faction.
According to sources inside the CCP, that faction sought to unseat Xi Jinping because of their desire to avoid being held accountable for crimes committed against Falun Gong practitioners. In response, Xi has been forced to clean out the ranks of the officials around Jiang Zemin, in order to assure his own power, with Zeng being the latest to fall.