Fu Zhenghua helped bring down one of China’s most corrupt officials. So why is the country applauding his downfall?

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Fu Zhenghua, China’s former justice minister and deputy police chief, seemed to have all the stars lined up for a top-flight official career. But instead, the 66-year-old has now himself become a target in Xi’s relentless crackdown on corruption and disloyalty, which critics say has also been used to purge political rivals.

On Saturday, the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog announced that Fu was under investigation for “serious violations of party discipline and the law.”

The one-sentence statement provided no details, but intriguingly elicited a wave of cheers and applause online – from grassroots police and prison guards to investigative journalists, lawyers for the human rights and intellectuals.

In Xi’s China, purges of rising political stars and top officials have become commonplace. But what’s remarkable about Fu’s fall is how celebrated it is – both by those working for the regime and by those who have been subjected to its repression.

Fu cut his teeth as a criminal investigator for the Beijing police. He first rose to prominence in 2010 – just months after being appointed the city’s police chief – when he launched a crackdown on prostitution at several high-end nightclubs allegedly influential political relations.

His willingness to challenge the business interests of powerful families has won him praise from the state media and the confidence of leaders. In 2013, Xi appointed him to lead an investigation into the corruption of Zhou Yongkang, the former Chinese security czar and retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the height of power in the party. Zhou was jailed for life in 2015 for corruption and abuse of power.
But Fu was not only attacking corrupt political elites. As Deputy Minister of Public Security, in 2013 he unleashed a sweeping crackdown on thought leaders on Chinese social media site Weibo, arresting several prominent commentators with many followers. He was also in charge of the nationwide roundup of lawyers and human rights activists in 2015, in what has become infamously known as the “709 crackdown,” according to people close to the detained lawyers.

Following the news of his fall, several senior investigative journalists said on social media that they had been targeted by Fu for their hard-hitting reporting, on topics ranging from the illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption. .

Yu Jianrong, a prominent Chinese sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, accused Fu of trying to silence him in 2010 for exposing Beijing’s alleged persecution of petitioners.

“The targets of Fu Zhenghua’s crackdown are people at the heart of Chinese civil society. Therefore, the entire intellectual sector of the country and the general public are all delighted with (his fall from grace), ”said Wu Qiang, political analyst in Beijing.

“His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China’s governance over the past decade. “

Fu’s bossy approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, some of whom applauded the fall of their former boss as “most gratifying.” Commenting on social media, many accused Fu of imposing grueling and unreasonably harsh demands on field officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.

“After the fall of a top official in the justice system, the vast police and grassroots lawyers all had the same reaction and united in celebration – it is not an easy thing for an official to achieve,” he said. said a columnist on Weibo.
Fu is the latest senior official to be trapped in Xi’s massive purge of China’s internal security agencies, which was launched last year. This precedes a major party leadership reshuffle next fall, when Xi is expected to retain power for a third term – becoming the first Chinese leader to do so in more than two decades, after abolishing presidential term limits. in 2018.

Officials of China’s internal security apparatus were urged to “turn the blade inward and scrape the poison from the bone” and expose the “double-sided people” who are disloyal and dishonest towards the party.

The announcement of the investigation of Fu comes just days after Sun Lijun, another former deputy minister of public security, was kicked out of the party and charged with bribery and “having extremely exaggerated political ambitions.” A third deputy chief of police and former head of the international police agency Interpol was sentenced last year to 13 and a half years in prison for corruption.

Wu, the analyst, said the series of purges betrayed the fragility of China’s leadership in the country’s internal security agencies.

“It is very difficult for Beijing to have political confidence. This is the biggest crisis in its governance,” he said.


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