Ex-Politburo Members Accused of ‘Serious Discipline Violations’ Always Face Courts

Some Concerned Zhou Yongkang Will Get Off Lightly

After much speculation, the axe has finally fallen on Zhou Yongkang, the former public security chief and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, indicating the Communist Party’s campaign against corruption will grant no exceptions to the powerful.

The Xinhua News Agency reported on July 29 that the Party’s 205-member Central Committee decided to launch an inquiry into Zhou over “serious discipline violations.”

Zhou was a member of the elite, 25-member Politburo from 2002 to 2007, then held membership on its standing committee—the apex of the Party’s power—from 2007 to 2012.



Paper Tiger

Isaac Stone Fish & Rachel Lu
For 10 months, the fate of Zhou Yongkang existed in a space of plausible deniability. Respected Western media outlets had reported that the 71-year-old Zhou, a retired official who served as China's much-feared domestic security czar from 2007...

He will be investigated by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC), the Party’s top graft fighter according to the Party’s constitution and discipline regulations, the official news agency said.

Many people are concerned that the most senior Party official ever to be investigated for corruption will get off with punishment from the Party, not from China’s judicial system.

There is no precedent for Zhou’s case because he is the highest Party official to be investigated in the past three decades. However, some previous cases involving Politburo members may shed light on his fate.

All of these high-level Party members were initially accused of “serious discipline violations,” but later their cases entered the judicial system. There has been no exception to this.

Chen Liangyu was a Politburo member from 2002 to 2006. The former Party Chief of Shanghai came under the scrutiny of the CDIC in September 2006 and had his case moved to the courts in July 2007. Chen was sentenced to 18 years in prison for bribery and abuse of power.

Bo Xilai, a Politburo member from 2007 to 2012 and the former Party boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing, was placed under investigation on April 10, 2012. Less than six months later, the Politburo handed his case to the judicial system. On September 22, 2013, Bo received a life sentence for bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

The latest example is Xu Caihou, a Politburo member from 2007 to 2012 and a retired Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Party’s top authority on military affairs. On March 15, the Central Committee launched an inquiry into Xu, and three months later his case was sent to military prosecutors for criminal investigation.

All these cases indicate that senior Party members accused of “serious discipline violations” are very likely to end up facing criminal charges. This reflects the authorities’ zero tolerance for corruption and determination to advance the rule of law in China.

Coincidentally, on the same day as Zhou’s downfall, the Politburo announced that the fourth plenum of the 18th Central Committee will be held in October. Atop the agenda is studying ways to enhance the rule of law.