04/03/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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As investigation ends, Zhou Yongkang risks the death penalty

The trial will be held in Tianjin. The former security "Tzar", once one of the most powerful men in China, is accused of corruption, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets. But he is also accused political machinations: he had planned a coup to bring down the Party. During his reign the repression of civil and religious rights increased.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Corruption, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets. These are the formal charges being laid by China’s Supreme People's Procuratorate against Zhou Yongkang, former  national security "Tsar" and member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

The Procuratorate said it has completed its investigation into - and has entrusted the most important political trial in the Xi Jinping era to Court No. 1 of Tianjin. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to death.

The investigation against Zhou opened in August of 2013, a year after his retirement from active political life, and part of the anti-corruption campaign "against the Tigers and the flies" launched by President Xi soon after his coming to power .

The former  national security "Tzar" is accused of having pocketed "huge bribes" throughout his career: he was deputy general director of the China National Petroleum Corporation; Communist Party chief of Sichuan; head of the Ministry of Public Security and head of the Central Commission for policy and legal affairs.

According to the official statement of the Procuratorate, published this morning, "[Zhou’s] abuse of power has led to great losses of public funds and has done severe damage to the national and the public interests, causing adverse social impact." However, the investigators did not give information on the accusation of leaking state secrets.

Although this inquiry was established as part of the anti-corruption campaign, analysts also emphasize "its enormous political importance". The annual report published in February 2015 by the Supreme People's Court reported how the former minister had " undermined the party's solidarity and engaged in political activities [not approved by the authorities]”.

In fact, many commentators believe that Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is, in fact, an excuse to eliminate rival political factions and individuals. According to David Shambaugh, a leading expert of the Chinese business world, repression against dissidence has been stepped up and  "could lead to the Party’s implosion. If this continues, the president will face a coup."

Born in 1942, Zhou joined the Party in 1964 and studied at Beijing Institute of Petroleum (later the Chinese university of petroleum). He entered the energy industry and in the 1990s became head of the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), the all-powerful state energy industry.

In recent months, many of Zhou's friends and secretaries have been placed under investigation. They include family members -his brother, son, daughter-in-law sister-in-law, ... - implicated in the network of contacts and backhanders related to the energy world.

In 2002, Zhou joined the Politburo as Minister for Security. Under his leadership this ministry had a higher annual budget than defense, strengthening  its controls on society, expanding the police, giving them the power to imprison without trial dissidents, religious figures, petitioners, villagers who fought land seizures, besieging villages and firing on the crowds.

 

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