Succession Battle in China Fought to Keep Crimes Hidden

April 26, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
Xi Jinping, the presumptive next head of the Chinese Communist Party
Xi Jinping, the presumptive next head of the Chinese Communist Party, attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People on March 3, in Beijing, China. For the past five years Xi has been in the eye of the storm of a battle over who will succeed Party head Hu Jintao. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

The 10-year-long battle between factions in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been waged to keep terrible secrets hidden, with the outcome hanging on the choice of successor for Party head Hu Jintao.

Former Party head Jiang Zemin and his faction have lived in fear of not controlling the CCP. They know they cannot allow the people of China or the world to learn of the enormous crimes committed against the practitioners of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong.

The battle to keep what has been done secret has been focused for the past five years on the figure of Xi Jinping. Jiang’s faction could not prevent Xi from being named as Hu Jintao’s successor as head of the CCP, but neither could they risk Xi ever holding power.

Xi is unacceptable to Jiang’s faction because he is not implicated in the persecution. The Jiang faction needs to keep the persecution going, to keep quiet the crimes that have been committed, and to assure they will never be held accountable for what they have done.

Keeping Control

As Jiang faced retirement in 2002 at the 16th Party Congress, he had to make sure that he would continue to hold the real power, even while formally ceding authority to Hu Jintao.

The key to controlling the Party is the Politburo Permanent Standing Committee (PSC)—the small body whose consensus rules the CCP. Jiang sought to pack the PSC with his followers and in particular added Zeng Qinghong, then head of the CCP’s Organization Department.

While Hu Jintao was building a network of officials loyal to him throughout the Party, in 2002 the PSC was dominated by Jiang’s people. 

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Nonetheless, in order to assure that Zeng could lead the PSC in Jiang’s stead, Jiang needed to find a way to neutralize Li Ruihuan. Li Ruihuan had been a member of the PSC since 1992.

Li was popular among Party officials and was recognized as being more capable than Jiang himself. If Li stayed on the PSC, then Zeng would likely not be able to run things. 

Li was due to turn 68, so Jiang and Zeng invented a new rule: “Seven Up, Eight Down.” The meaning of this phrase was that PSC members who were 67 at the time of the Party Congress could serve another term, but those who were 68 had to step down. Li was forced off the PSC.

This stratagem got Jiang and Zeng through five years, but in 2007, at the 17th Party Congress, they got caught in their own snare. With the Congress approaching, Zeng was due to turn 68 and thus was disqualified from continuing to serve on the PSC. His place was given to Xi Jinping, at the time the Party chief of Zhejiang Province.

Zeng attempted to put the best light on things by circulating the slogan, “Zeng Qinghong sacrifices himself for Xi Jinping.” The truth is that Zeng had no choice in the matter.

Choosing a New Chief

Joining Xi as a new PSC member was Li Keqiang, then the Party chief of Liaoning Province.

In fact, Jiang and Zeng did not want either Xi or Li to join the PSC. They had originally wanted Zeng to stay on and to add Bo Xilai.

Jiang had rewarded Bo for his ruthless persecution of Falun Gong by rapidly promoting him. Bo moved up from mayor of Dalian City to governor of Liaoning Province in 2000, and to commerce minister in 2004. The PSC seemed within his grasp.

Bo’s candidacy was damaged by the death in January 2007 of his father, Bo Yibo, an influential CCP elder statesman. But it was most likely sunk by the opposition of Wen Jiabao.

Bo had been under consideration to be chosen as vice premier, but Wen pointed out that because Bo had been sued in several countries for atrocities committed against Falun Gong practitioners, he was not an appropriate representative of the CCP on the international stage. That disqualification also ended his shot at the PSC in 2007, and Bo was shunted off to become Party chief of Chongqing.

Continued on the next page: Hu Jintao needed to arrange for a successor …

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.