China’s Powerful Domestic Security Chief Left With No Allies

April 2, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

The future for Zhou Yongkang, head of China’s powerful Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC), which controls China’s police, armed police, and the entire judiciary, is looking grim. 

Zhou became a likely target for elimination in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) recent factional quake that toppled his ally Bo Xilai. According to Hong Kong media, three of China’s top law enforcement leaders under Zhou’s oversight have attempted to resign during the past three years, making Zhou’s power base much weaker than was commonly known. 

The Minister of Public Security, the Director of the Supreme People’s Court, and the Director of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate have all tried to resign from their positions because of long-standing disagreements with Zhou Yongkang, Hong Kong based Trend Magazine said. 

In both May 2009 and October 2010, Meng Jianzhu, the Minister of Public Security, submitted resignation letters to the State Department.

In March 2011, Wang Shengjun, the Director of the Supreme People’s Court, submitted his resignation to the Central Politburo and State Department. Wang’s resignation was reportedly over long-term problems with inept judges and tight court system budgets. In addition to handing in the letter, Wang took a weeklong leave of absence to show his determination to resign.

Cao Jianming, the Director of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, submitted his resignation shortly after writing a conspicuously strong letter to the Central Politburo in 2010. He said the biggest obstacle to China’s legal system and rule-of-law is the “will of executive officers,” who overpower the law, and the power of “privileged individuals,” referring to PLAC leaders, who manipulate the law and justice system. 

In China’s black-box media environment, the report sheds light at a critical moment in the Communist regime’s rule.

With three of his subordinates not on his side, his top backer Jiang Zemin reportedly in a vegetative state, and his ally Bo Xilai out of the picture, Zhou Yongkang’s future is becoming ever more precarious. 

It could mean that the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Court, and Supreme People’s Procuratorate will no longer be under the control of Zhou Yongkang and the PLAC. 

It could also be a sign of other things to come. 

The Jiang Zemin Problem

When Jiang Zemin, the former head of the CCP, came to power, the two secretaries of the PLAC, Zhou Yongkang (head of the State Public Security Department) and Luo Gan (head of the General Central Politics and Law Commission), quickly and unexpectedly became members of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s most elite political circle. 

The PLAC controls China’s public security forces, courts, procuratorates, state security forces, and armed police. This committee has the authority to mobilize the resources of foreign affairs, education, the judicial system, the state department, the military, and public health department at any time. It is another central government in itself, and obviously its existence is irreconcilable with the current leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. 


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At the same time, the Public Security, Justice, and Procuratorate offices, the “Three Systems” that were supposed to function independently, were unable to follow the law, conduct investigations, prosecute, and conduct trials, because they were under the control of the PLAC. 

Staff at the procuratorates and the courts, faced with objections from human rights activists and Falun Gong practitioners, would often say in frustration: “There is nothing we can do, the order comes from above. Why don’t you talk to the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee or the 610 Office.”

During the past dozen years, Zhou Yongkang and Luo Gan have made a name for themselves as corrupt heads of the PLAC and have caused enormous public resentment. People working under them, like Meng Jianzhu, Wang Shengjun, and Cao Jianming, have become immensely concerned about repercussions. They feared that one day their crimes would be exposed, and they would become scapegoats for Zhou. This led to their attempts to resign.

The three agencies were not always arms of the PLAC. Prior to their current status, they functioned as independent branches under the Constitution. It wasn’t until Jiang initiated the persecution of Falun Gong that the PLAC gained power over public security, courts, procurators, state security, and armed police. With newly granted powers and Jiang’s cronies in command, the PLAC took on a life of its own.

The Turning of the Tides

The time to openly arrest Zhou and punish Jiang and his clique for their crimes is nearing. 

The three resignation attempts indicate that Zhou no longer holds any power or influence in high-level political circles. As Hu, Wen, and Xi Jinping are working together to consolidate their power, unfavorable news of their political rivals in the Jiang Zemin faction is frequently exposed. This is making it very likely that more high-ranking officials will defect from Jiang’s faction, as did Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan, who turned against Bo Xilai the day after Bo was ousted. 


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Such a climate is an opportune time for Hu and Wen to openly arrest Zhou and bring Jiang to justice for the crimes he and his clique have committed. It will win them the Chinese people’s hearts without causing social chaos. 

Making an example of Jiang will also deter his remnant forces and will have a stabilizing effect on the political situation.

A Way Out

There was most likely another reason, besides their fear of becoming Zhou’s scapegoats, why Meng, Wang, and Cao wanted to resign from their posts. Being members in the highest political circle, they know better than anyone the secrets of the CCP and the Party’s true situation. They most likely do not hold any hope for the CCP’s future, and were looking for an early way out while they could.

Hu and Wen should understand this too. To continue with the current system of repression and control, the CCP is bound to hit a dead end, and there will be no hope or light for China.

What Hu and Wen can do now is to use their power for the good of the Chinese people and for China’s future. By bringing Jiang and his clique to justice for their crimes and persecution of innocent people, they will win the hearts of the people. They can then dissolve the CCP and establish a new political system. Ending the authoritarian Communist regime will win them the support and respect from people in China and around the world.

Now that Zhou’s power has weakened, with none of his allies left in the legal system, it is important for Hu and Wen to be decisive and take quick actions.

Xia Xiaoqiang is a China expert and regular columnist for the Chinese-language Epoch Times.

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