Fri, Jun 12, 2015 - Page 1 News List

China’s Zhou sentenced

AP, BEIJING

Former Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, center, stands in a courtroom at the First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin yesterday in a screen grab from video released by China’s CCTV.

Photo: AFP

Former Chinese domestic security head Zhou Yongkang (周永康) yesterday was sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges, in a victory for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) anti-graft campaign seen as further cementing his authority by removing a potential challenger.

Zhou, a former member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, is the biggest target to fall in Xi’s drive to end the longstanding culture of bribe-taking and improper influence among Chinese officials.

The First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin said Zhou was sentenced after being tried on May 22 on charges of receiving bribes, abuse of power and leaking state secrets. The trial was held behind closed doors because of the final charge.

Zhou, 72, was sentenced to lesser terms on the abuse of power and state secrets charges, and was ordered to serve his sentences concurrently.

The sentence also mandates the seizure of all of Zhou’s personal assets.

While portrayed simply as a blow against corruption, Zhou’s sentencing removes a potential challenge to Xi’s authority and has been widely perceived as reflecting factional politics within the party’s uppermost echelon.

Zhou is the highest-ranking former politician to face court since the 1981 treason trial of Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) wife and other members of the “Gang of Four” who persecuted political opponents during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

The dour-faced and once-feared Zhou had been under investigation since late 2013 and has been unavailable for comment since then.

The investigation also scrutinized Zhou’s former allies in the Chinese government and the oil industry.

According to the court, Zhou received, directly and indirectly, a total of 130 million yuan (US$21 million) in bribes and used his influence to allow others to realize 2.1 billion yuan in profits on business dealings that caused 1.4 billion yuan in losses for the state treasury — presumably through the sale of government assets at below cost.

Zhou’s actions “inflicted enormous damage to public finances and the interests of the nation and the people,” the court said in an explanation of the verdict on its Web site.

China frequently moves sensitive trials to other jurisdictions to avoid witness tampering and other potential problems.

The court said Zhou had accepted its decision and would not file an appeal. While the charges potentially mandated a death sentence, it said Zhou received leniency after confessing and showing repentance and ordering his relatives to hand over the majority of their ill-gotten gains.

While the charges of abuse of power and leaking state secrets were serious, they had not resulted in any major consequences, the court said.

“The court rendered the above verdict based on the facts of Zhou Yongkang’s crimes, their nature, circumstances and the degree of harm to society,” the court added.

Zhou was once seen as untouchable, with a vast patronage network covering the southwestern province of Sichuan, where he used to be party boss to the state oil sector, police and courts.

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