A politically fraught Chinese Communist Party corruption investigation focusing on the former head of the domestic security apparatus, Zhou Yongkang (周永康), has reached into the sensitive realm of the Chinese intelligence services, with the detention of a senior official, people close to party and military leaders said this week.
Beijing Municipal Bureau of State Security Director Liang Ke (梁可) was taken into custody last month by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s arm for investigating official misconduct, according to three people who cited information from leaders notified of the decision. They said the allegations against Liang involved corruption, as well as his ties to Zhou, whose former portfolio included the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
Li Dong (李東) replaces Liang Ke as head of the Beijing’s state security bureau, a statement on the city’s official Web site yesterday, citing a local People’s Congress decision.
A former security official and a policy adviser to party leaders, both speaking on the condition of anonymity, said senior officials had told them that Liang was suspected of aiding Zhou by illicitly passing on information gathered by the bureau’s network of agents, telephone taps and informants in the Chinese capital.
“The official message sent down was that Liang Ke was suspected of corruption,” the former security official said. “But as well, Liang Ke was detained because he is suspected of assisting Zhou Yongkang beyond approved means and channels.”
A businessman whose investments bring him in contact with senior police and military officials also confirmed Liang’s detention, which was said to have occurred in the first half of last month.
The detention takes the investigation encircling Zhou into especially sensitive terrain: The Ministry of State Security and its local bureaus are unaccountable even by China’s standards and rarely discussed in public. In addition to conducting espionage overseas, the service gathers intelligence on officials at home, monitors threats to party control and keeps foreign diplomats and journalists under surveillance. State security officials’ names and comments almost never appear in the media.
Before retiring in November 2012, Zhou was one of nine men on the Politburo Standing Committee — the party’s top decisionmaking body — and headed the committee that oversees China’s courts, police and other arms of domestic security. In his five years in those two posts, he accumulated considerable clout as the party made maintaining social stability a top priority and devoted ever greater resources to the security forces under his control.
The government has not announced any investigation into Zhou, but people close to senior officials have said that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and other leaders approved the inquiry late last year.
If Zhou is tried and convicted of corruption, he would be the first former or sitting member of the Politburo Standing Committee to confront such a fate.
Liang was appointed director of state security for Beijing in 2008, after rising through the ranks of the city bureau, according to a government Web site. At the time, a report in the Beijing News newspaper said he was 42 and came from Jilin City in northeast China. Since then, few details about his activities have appeared.