Former Chinese security czar Zhou Yongkang has been accused of leaking secrets, and China experts are speculating what that privileged information might be.
At midnight on Dec. 5 the state-mouthpiece Xinhua announced that Zhou was being expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for a number of crimes including violating Party discipline, gaining illegal profits through his position, taking bribes, abusing power, causing the loss of state assets, and “leaking Party and state secrets.”
Zhou was recently one of the most powerful men in China. He headed up the omnibus Party organization that had authority over almost all parts of the domestic security system, including the 1.5 million strong People’s Armed Police. As a former member of Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s top decision-making body, Zhou is the highest level communist official sacked since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.
Given his former power and position, Zhou had access to many state secrets. Different China experts have speculated what secrets he is being charged with leaking.
The well-known Germany-based scholar of totalitarianism Zhong Weiguang told Epoch Times that the “secrets” are likely to be the financial information of other CCP leaders that was leaked to media outside China.
In June 2012 Bloomberg published an article detailing the wealth of the family of Xi Jinping—then the vice chair of the CCP and expected in November to become head of the Party.
In October 2012, the New York Times ran an exposé of the wealth of then-Premier Wen Jiabao’s family, for which David Barboza won a Pulitzer Prize.
Zhong said the leaking of financial information was likely used by Zhou as a strategy for attacking other leaders in a power struggle inside the CCP. Zhou was a top figure in the faction loyal to former Party head Jiang Zemin.
Wen and Xi would both have appeared in the summer and fall of 2012 to be enemies of the Jiang faction. Wen Jiabao had taken the lead in urging that Jiang faction member Bo Xilai be investigated. Xi, as the next in succession to the Party leadership, was an obstacle to the Jiang faction holding onto power inside the Party.
The wealth of Party leaders is considered highly sensitive information—the Party understands very well the intense resentment such information may provoke among the Chinese people. The New York Times and Bloomberg stories were seen by China analysts as stories that weakened Wen and Xi.
In January 2014, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed leaked documents about close relatives of China’s top leaders owning secretive offshore companies in tax havens. Among the records are information about families of China’s most powerful elites, such as Xi Jinping, former CCP general secretary Hu Jintao, former Premier Wen Jiabao, and so on.
Many media outlets have pointed out that none of the family of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin and his allies Zhou Yongkang and Zeng Qinghong were mentioned in the leaked document, although they have the reputation of having gained extraordinary wealth through corruption.
Well-known Chinese economist He Qinglian published an opinion article in Voice of America, indicating that it’s a possibility that Zhou leaked the information in the ICIJ document to media outside China.
“Zhou had the ability to delete the information related to families of Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong and himself, and then leaked the information out.” He Qinglian wrote.
Warning Bo Xilai
Wen Zhao, a political commentator for the New York-based New Tang Dynasty television, has opined that the “leaked secrets” may also be that Zhou leaked high level Party decisions to the disgraced Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai, after Bo’s right-hand man, the Chongqing vice mayor Wang Lijun, fled to the United States Consulate in Chengdu in February 2012 attempting to defect. Wen believes Zhou ordered Bo to take Wang back.
Wang, while he was in the custody of the U.S. Consulate and then in the custody of Beijing disciplinary officials, is believed to have provided evidence Bo Xilai’s wife murdered British businessman Neil Heywood, along with other information implicating Bo in crimes.
The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun quoted a staff member at the Chinese Ministry of Justice who indicated that Zhou, who was Bo’s biggest supporter, leaked secret information involved in the case first of Wang and then of Bo, to Bo.
Bo was dismissed following the Wang Lijun incident. Later, he went on trial, and was sentenced in September 2013 to life in prison for accepting bribes and abuse of power.
“Bo Xilai also admitted during trial that he received higher level instruction [when dealing with Wang Lijun incident], which is probably from Zhou Yongkang. The CCP wants to connect Bo and Zhou’s cases together through this clue. The official actually has asserted that Bo and Zhou are partners,” Wen said.
Epoch Times has previously reported, citing sources inside the CCP that Bo and Zhou had conspired to remove Xi Jinping from power after he was named general secretary.
Signal to Jiang Zemin
The U.S.-based political commentator Zhang Tianliang believes that the accusation of “leaking party and state secrets” reveals a division at the highest levels of the CCP. While the Party decided to publicize this accusation, it is not expected to bring it up in court.
“It’s state secrets after all,” Zhang said. “If it is brought to court, it would expose more and more scandals. Thus, I don’t think it would be mentioned in court.”
Zhang believes that publicizing this accusation serves to warn Zhou’s group that his case is not the end, and more people could be taken down.
“Now that Zhou Yongkang has fallen, targeting [former CCP leader] Jiang Zemin and [his political ally] Zeng Qinghong is getting closer,” Zhang said. “They definitely would try their best to fight back.”
Mainland Chinese lawyer Sui Muqing told Epoch Times that the accusation of “leaking state secrets” against Zhou is part of an ongoing power struggle. Sui said such accusations are sometimes used as a means of revenge. For instance, senior Chinese Journalist Zhou Yu was detained this April for “leaking state secrets to overseas.” Such an accusation used on a high level official is more obvious, Sui said.
With translation and rewriting by Lu Chen.