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The Trial of Zhou Yongkang and China’s Rule of Law

Jun 16 , 2015

Zhou Yongkang, the first Politburo Standing Committee member to be indicted for corruption in the history of the People’s Republic of China, was tried on May 22 behind closed doors, and his verdict was announced on June 11. Compared to the trial of Bo Xilai, former Politburo member and former party secretary of Chongqing, the trial of Zhou was much more mysterious.

In spite of public assurances of an open and transparent trial by Supreme People’s Court officials, including SPC President Zhou Qiang, the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin decided that Zhou’s case would be tried in secret because his case involves state secrets. According to Xinhua’s report, the alleged offense was simply that he passed on six classified documents (five categorized as “top secret” and one “secret”) to Cao Yongzheng, a qinggong-master-cum-business entrepreneur who claims to have strong capacities in extrasensory perception (ESP). The offense, the court assessed, was very serious but without particularly serious consequences. Zhou was sentenced for four years in jail for his crime of “intentional disclosure of state secrets.” Apparently, this was a petty crime, on the scale of larceny — but still enough to justify as secret trial despite earlier SPC promises.

According to the public releases, Zhou’s trial didn’t touch on his “non-organizational political activities.” Though not exactly a legal term, this offense, referencing political activities outside the aegis of the Party leadership, is probably the most important reason why Zhou was expelled from the Party and placed under criminal investigation. Nevertheless, in China “non-organizational political activities” are not criminal offenses and Zhou was not convicted for those actions.

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