July 1 is the date the Chinese Communist Party chose long ago to celebrate as its birthday. The date was meant to be devoted to the praise of the Party, but it has not been particularly auspicious in recent years.
Beginning in 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China, the people of Hong Kong chose that day to hold an annual march for democracy. This year somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people filled the city’s streets calling for an end to the Communist Party’s rule.
This year’s July 1 also saw the CCP make an ironic birthday present to itself: the rounding up of what the Chinese media calls the Secretary Gang.
On July 2, the organization that enforces Party discipline announced that three officials had been expelled from the Party and handed over to legal authorities for criminal prosecution. While the Party chose to make this announcement on July 2, the actual arrests of these officials had come sometime earlier.
The three officials at a glance do not seem to have much in common. One was deputy governor of the southern province Hainan. Another was the deputy director of the umbrella organization for China’s domestic security organizations. Another was a senior officer of the Guard Bureau, the branch of the Ministry of Public Security charged with protecting high-ranking CCP officials.
These officials are not well-known, even in China, but the business magazine Caixin was able to provide important details about them that could only have come from inside the Party.
That Caixin was the conduit is not surprising. As Party leader Xi Jinping’s purges of Party officials have unfolded over the last 18 months, it has become clear that Caixin has a very good relationship with Wang Qishan, the Xi lieutenant responsible for driving forward Xi’s “anti-corruption” campaign.
According to Caixin, the three arrested on July 2 each served at one time or another as the secretary for Party heavyweight Zhou Yongkang.
Zhou Yongkang is a loyal ally of former Party head Jiang Zemin, who appointed him to head the Chinese regime’s domestic security apparatus. Under Zhou, that apparatus grew to be the size of an army, and Zhou was understood by Party insiders to have created a second center of power within the regime, rivaling the power of the Party’s titular leader, the general secretary.
Zhou retired in 2012, but according to individuals with knowledge of the Party’s inner circle, Zhou conspired with other Jiang Zemin loyalists to unseat Xi Jinping soon after he took power.
Zhou has been mostly out of the public eye for months and is believed to be under Party control. But no public move has been taken against this “tiger” while Wang Qishan builds a case against him.
The arrest of the three former secretaries brings to either five or seven the number of former Zhou secretaries that have been arrested, according to which Chinese media account one reads.
Their arrest fits the general pattern of most of the purges we have seen. Their crime is not “corruption” although they are surely guilty of that. Their crime is their connection to the faction loyal to Jiang Zemin.
These secretaries did not do clerical duty. Perhaps the closest term for describing the role they played is the Italian mafia term “consigliore.” They serve as fixers for their bosses.
They handle bribes and do damage control for their bosses’ not-so-legal activities. At other times, they handle their bosses’ family businesses.
In China, the smart Party and state officials don’t personally get involved in illegal activities. Instead, their family members do.
The secretaries would help their bosses’ family members set up businesses and get government contracts. Then the secretaries would launder the money, so that illegal activities became legal. When some lower officials want a promotion, they most likely go through the secretaries or the family members.
As a reward, when the secretary leaves the boss, or the boss is about to retire, the boss will arrange for the secretary to be promoted to an important leadership position within the boss’s power. This promotion is also an extra insurance policy for the boss, since he doesn’t want his interests damaged or his crimes exposed after he retires.
He needs someone loyal. Who could be the better person than the accomplice of his own crimes?
The secretary knows almost all details of the skeletons in the boss’s closet. If someone wants to take down an official, the best and easiest way is to get the evidence from his secretary. All of Zhou Yongkang’s former secretaries except one, according to Caixin, have been detained, investigated, and interrogated since one year ago.
Zhou Yongkang bestowed on them position, power, and good fortune. Now, their connection with Zhou has brought them bad luck. They will lose everything—power, money, reputation, and freedom.
In the lawless and fully corrupt system in China, everyone could be both the perpetrator and the victim. Nobody is safe. With the announcement of the purge of these secretaries, the rope around Zhou Yongkang’s neck has tightened.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.