Chinese prosecutors yesterday charged former Chinese domestic security head Zhou Yongkang (周永康) with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets, paving the way for a trial that could expose the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party.
Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949.
The decision to prosecute Zhou underscores Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels.
The indictment accused Zhou of “taking advantage of his position to seek benefits for others,” “illegally accepting other people’s huge assets,” “abuse of power” and “causing heavy losses to public property, the state and the people,” the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in a statement on its Web site.
“The impact on society is vile, the circumstances are especially serious,” the agency said, without giving specific details of the charges.
Zhou’s alleged crimes took place over decades, including when he was deputy general manager of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC, 中國石油天然氣), party boss in southwestern Sichuan Province, minister of public security and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the statement said.
Zhou has been informed of his legal rights and listened to the views of his lawyer, the statement added, without saying where Zhou, who has not been seen in public since October 2013, is being detained.
No date was given for Zhou’s trial, but state media said last month that China would hold an “open trial” in an attempt to show transparency.
However, legal experts say the party runs the risk of Zhou threatening to reveal state secrets.
His case was yesterday transferred to a court in the northern city of Tianjin, prosecutors said.
Zhang Sizhi (張思之), the lawyer who defended Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) widow Jiang Qing (江青), said Tianjin would have been chosen because it has no obvious connection to Zhou to ensure the impartiality of the judge. Jiang was tried in China’s last major show trial in 1980 and given a suspended death sentence for the deaths of tens of thousands during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
“The trial could start quite soon, perhaps in a month or so,” Zhang said, judging by legal precedent. “The government will be hoping that by giving him a trial like this, it will help with their efforts to boost the rule of law.”
Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — China’s apex of power — and held the post of security czar until he retired in 2012.
He also built an extensive power base at oil giant CNPC as he rose to the top of the company in the 1990s.
At least a dozen former top managers at CNPC have been arrested as part of the crackdown on graft.
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