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Sun Lijun, China’s Ousted Vice-Minister of Police, Formally Charged With Political Crimes

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: January 17, 2022
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Sun Lijun (R) and Fu Zhenghua, two high-ranking Chinese ex-security officials purged under Xi Jinping. (Image: File Photo)

The former deputy head of China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS), Sun Lijun, has been indicted for a litany of crimes, from accepting “an exceptionally large” amount of bribes and illegal firearms possession to market manipulation and “endangering political security” in order to benefit their own factions.  

Sun had been placed under investigation in April 2020, and was dismissed from his posts on Sept. 30, 2021. His recent charges were announced by the top Chinese prosecutory organ on Jan. 13 in Changchun, Northeast China. 

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s charges echoed those of the Chinese Communist Party’s disciplinary authorities. 

According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI)’s announcements made in September, Sun and his associates had resisted previous disciplinary and supervisory investigations and “destroyed the political ecology of the public security and political and legal affairs apparatus.”

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These crimes were “particularly serious,” of a “nasty” nature, and had “extremely bad” consequences, the CCDI said. The procrocurate’s indictment notice added that the 53-year-old ex-security officer ran offices in Shanghai and Beijing and harbored inflated political ambitions that “seriously destroyed” Party unity. 

Sun was also part of a team sent to Wuhan at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CCDI’s findings, Sun was “arrogant, acted unscrupulously, engaged in privileges and deserted his post on the frontline of fighting the COVID-19 epidemic.” 

Made an example of

Sun is one among hundreds of senior CCP cadres who have been taken down in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s nearly decade-long anti-corruption campaign. While most of these officials have been officially accused of corruption, what most of them share are ties to Jiang Zemin, the former regime head who still retains power behind the scenes. 

Many officials working in the police and Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) before Xi came to power in 2012 are affiliated with the Jiang faction, having benefited from the ex-leader’s notorious tolerance for corruption. 

SinoInsider, a political risk consultancy focused on China, identifies Sun Lijun as a Jiang faction member, noting that he — like many other security officials purged under Xi — played a major role in Jiang’s campaign against the Falun Gong spiritual practice. 

The fact that the CCP authorities continue to arrest officials affiliated with Jiang shows that Xi remains insecure in his power, according to SinoInsider. And Sun’s being charged with political crimes only further highlights the gravity of the struggle within the Chinese regime. 

On Jan. 13, Sun appeared in the trailer for a CCDI-produced documentary series, “Zero Tolerance,” on corruption in China, which showed him dressed in a black prison uniform saying, “I never thought that I would become a destroyer of the rule of law, or fairness and justice.”

Two other officials — former Guizhou deputy party chief Wang Fuyu and Hangzhou party boss Zhou Jiangyong also appeared in the trailer — confessing to accepting bribes and expressing remorse for their actions. 

The documentary series, tittled “Zero Tolerance,” is a co-production by the CCDI and state broadcaster China Central Television and will feature 16 major corruption cases, with the first episode scheduled to air on Jan. 15.

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Other officials in danger

Sun’s downfall seems to be closely linked to the fate of other high-ranking Chinese officials, particularly former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua, who retired from that post in April 2020 — around the same time that Sun was placed under investigation — and himself placed under investigation on Oct. 2, just two days after Sun was expelled from the CCP. 

Fu Zhenghua, also a member of the Jiang faction, was also complicit in the persecution of Falun Gong, and is believed to have orchestrated the “709” mass arrest of human rights lawyers in July 2015. 

SinoInsider notes that both Fu and Sun, as well as other security officials arrested recently, held leading posts in the “610 Office,” a now-disbanded CCP organization created by Jiang to “deal with” Falun Gong and empowered to direct Chinese police and propaganda units across the country. 

According to a newsletter published by the New York-based consultancy on Oct. 4, 2021, it would not be a surprise “to see the rounding up of 610 Office cadres lead to the arrest of bigger Jiang ‘tigers’ in the political and legal affairs apparatus, including Supreme People’s Court president Zhou Qiang, C[entral] PLAC chief Guo Shengkun, and former CPLAC secretary Meng Jianzhu.”