Liu Beixian, the retired former head of the Chinese regime’s mouthpiece, China News Service, has been stripped of his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) membership. His politically significant downfall came less than a month after the regime introduced a new leadership lineup under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
State mouthpiece People’s Daily made the announcement on Nov. 13, which reported that the decision was made by the discipline unit at the United Front Work Department—a subversion agency that targets mainland and overseas Chinese.
Liu was found to have violated Party discipline: He was a repeat offender in accepting bribes and flying first class on business trips. Last but not least, he was also charged with abuse of power, such as helping private companies profit, resulting in the loss of state-owned assets.
Liu had a long tenure at the China News Service, first working as an editor in 1983. He got a huge promotion in 2000 when he was named the deputy head and deputy editor-in-chief. In 2009, he was named both the head and the party secretary of the agency. He announced his retirement in February 2015.
China News Agency and Xinhua are the official press agencies of the CCP.
The Party expulsion was not totally unexpected. In August, the CCP’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, announced that Liu had been placed under investigation for suspected graft.
Liu’s downfall carried a hidden political message, according to Xia Ming, a professor at City University of New York at the College of Staten Island, in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“It is a warning to party officials who have been on the sidelines, with regards to Xi as the core leader, that they must be absolutely loyal to Xi,” said Xia.
Liu was affiliated with Bo Xilai, the disgraced party henchman loyal to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin who had ruled Chongqing with an iron fist. According to People’s Daily, Liu showed up in Chongqing to participate in an evening party in September 2011, where he and Bo sang “red songs,” propaganda lyrics from the Mao Zedong era. Liu’s presence signaled his support for Bo’s policies in Chongqing, marked by red song revivalism and other ultra-leftist, Cultural Revolution-style practices. Bo was implicated in a 2012 political coup to oust Xi, and sentenced to life in prison a year later.
More significant was the fact that Liu made a huge jump up the political ladder in 2000, the same year he accompanied former CCP leader Jiang on a visit to the United Nations Security Council. Liu was reportedly the mastermind behind Chinese media coverage praising Jiang’s achievements at the U.N.
Over the years, China News Service has been proactively supporting one of Jiang’s darkest political agendas, the persecution of Falun Gong, by orchestrating the publication of news articles defaming the group. In 2007, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong named Liu as a culprit behind slander against several Falun Gong adherents who took part in an international singing competition hosted by the New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) network. The news agency had reprinted an article taken from the CCP’s official propaganda attacking Falun Gong.
Falun Gong is a traditional spiritual practice with slow, meditative exercises and moral teachings based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Adherents of the practice have been the target of statewide persecution since July 1999, when Jiang, scared of the popularity of the practice, banned Falun Gong and deemed adherents “enemies of the state.” After that, many party officials sought promotion and pledged their loyalty to Jiang by assisting in the persecution.
The department that made the announcement of Liu’s downfall recently welcomed a new head, You Quan, who pledged his loyalty to Xi in his first public appearance.
Anti-corruption efforts won’t end with the sacking of Liu, according to Professor Xia. He explained, “It is like solving a case by tracking down the clues. Behind Liu, someone higher up is the real target.”