Chinese state media Xinhua on March 31 announced the expulsion of Fu Zhenghua, the country’s retired Minister of Justice and a former high-ranking police official, from his posts in the government and Communist Party.
The shuangkai, or “double expulsion,” comes months after Fu was placed under investigation for corruption in October 2021.
Fu served as justice minister from 2018 to 2020, following a long career in public security — as China’s police force is known. As vice-minister of public security, Fu was infamous for his repression of political dissidents, and is known to have orchestrated the “709” mass arrests of human rights lawyers in July 2015.
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The misdeeds for which Fu is being officially investigated, however, have little to do with his abuses against the Chinese people and are much more related to his role in factional struggle within the communist regime.
According to the Xinhua readout, Fu racked up a long list of transgressions, including “never being truly loyal” to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and harboring “extremely inflated political ambitions” that led him to use “unscrupulous means” such as creating “falsifications” and deceiving the central Party authorities on “major issues.”
Fu also had “improper discussions” of central policy under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and notably, joined the “political gang” of Sun Lijun and other “political liars.” Cumulatively, this conduct “endangered the centralization and unity of the Party.”
Sun Lijun is Fu’s old colleague and another vice-minister of public security. He was placed under investigation in April 2020 — days within Fu’s retirement from his post as justice minister. More than a year later, Party authorities announced Sun’s “double expulsion” on Sept. 30, 2021; Fu was placed under investigation on Oct. 2.
‘Damaging the political ecology’
The progressing case against Fu Zhenghua follows the same pattern as many other high-ranking Chinese officials that have been purged in Xi’s nearly 10 years in power.
The Xinhua readout charged Fu with “damaging the political ecology,” being “greedy and corrupt,” and engaging in “superstitious activities” (a large number of CCP officials consult religious practitioners despite the Party’s atheist Marxism).
For the Xi Jinping leadership, however, Fu’s faults are by no means a rare problem, and in fact reflect a longstanding trend of deep-seated opposition to Xi’s authority.
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The anti-corruption campaign launched in 2013 has its immediate origin in the Wang Lijun incident of February 2012 that happened months before Xi was even confirmed as Chinese leader. That episode shook the CCP leadership, leading to the downfall of former Politburo members Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang.
Since then, Xi has continued to go after officials in various sectors of the Chinese regime, notably the security community. Almost all high-ranking figures purged from the Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), the overarching CCP organization that controls China’s police, prosecution, and courts, are affiliated with Jiang Zemin, the former Party boss whose faction reigned supreme in regime politics until the early 2010s.
Bo and Zhou were two of Jiang’s main lieutenants, being linked to him via their participation in the persecution of Falun Gong, a brutal campaign Jiang ordered in 1999 and which analysts say shapes the former leader’s political legacy.
Chinese state media under Xi continue to warn against the “poisonous influence” of figures like Bo and Zhou, despite their having been purged nearly a decade ago.
The purges of men like Fu Zhenghua and Sun Lijun — both of whom China-watchers also identify as close to the Jiang faction — likewise indicate that the current leadership remains concerned about anti-Xi elements in the regime’s security organs.
This year, the CCP is slated to hold its 20th National Congress. Under existing norms, Xi, who has already served two terms as Chinese leader, should step down.
Though Xi intends to take a third term, many observers have noted strong internal opposition to the 68-year-old’s staying on as leader. Xi has presided over the acute worsening of China’s economy, the start of a demographic disaster, and strong condemnation of the CCP’s human rights abuses since he took power.