09/02/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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Probe into Zhou Yongkang and Jiang Jiemin shows party torn by infighting

by Chen Weijun
The powerful former Public Security chief, who set up China's modern repression apparatus, comes under investigation for "economic crimes". One of his closest aide is also being investigated for taking bribes in the past ten years. Such house-cleaning hides factional infighting meant to eliminate all opposition to President Xi Jinping's rule.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - After the ouster of Bo Xilai, the powerful former Communist boss in Chongqing currently on trial, a new fight seems to be taking place among high ranking Communist leaders.

Zhou Yongkang, a former security chief and a retired member of the Politburo's all-powerful Standing Committee, was recently placed under investigation. He and his close associate Jiang Jiemin are being investigated for "economic crimes," but their legal problems represents an attempt by Communist party leaders to go after their left-wing.

Using the party's euphemism for graft, Xinhua reported yesterday that Jiang is suspected of "serious discipline violations" in what constitutes the first inquiry of its kind against a ministerial-level official and a full member of the party's 205-strong Central Committee since the leadership was reshuffled last November and a new administration took over earlier this year.

A protégé of Zhou Yongkang, the country's former security chief and an ex member of the nine, now seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, China's de facto governing body, Jiang, 58, is currently the director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) and a former chairman of the country's biggest oil company, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)

Jiang's case comes only a few days after his mentor and protector came under the scrutiny of the Communist Party and four other senior company executives were suspended and investigated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The CCP's most senior leaders decided "unanimously" to investigate Zhou, one of the most powerful Chinese politicians of the past ten years to be probed for corruption.

The move could cause a greater shock than that caused by the trial of Bo Xilai, considered a Zhou ally, who fell from grace for his opposition to the Xi Jinping faction. The two are thought to have planned a coup against President Hu Jintao.

Under Hu's ten-year leadership, Zhou played a more central role, but one criticised by civil society groups. Wielding unlimited powers, he was also able to introduce some of the most repressive measures in the history of modern China.

During his tenure, public security got more money and powers than ever, and the legal system was changed so that police can now detain anyone (without a court order) for up to six months.

His reforms have allowed the persecution of religious leaders, human rights activists and dissidents with impunity.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, almost 40 years ago, no member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo (in office or retired) has ever come under investigation for economic crimes.

According to sources close to the leadership, the decision was made to channel popular dissatisfaction and that of Communist leaders towards Zhou concerning the increasingly frequent scandals involving bribery and embezzlement in government.

Other analysts believe that with these new investigations Xi wants to put a stop party factionalism, showing that no one can avoid the revenge of those in power.

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