China's Ex-Security Boss Zhou Yongkang was sentenced to life imprisonment Thursday for accepting bribes, abusing his power and deliberately disclosing state secrets, the latest and most powerful footnote to the Party's commitment to the rule of law. Zhou, 73, was deprived of his political rights for life and had his personal assets confiscated, according to the verdict of Tianjin Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court.
The court heard his case on May 22. Involving disclosure of state secrets, Zhou's trial was held behind closed doors. Zhou pleaded guilty and will not appeal.
Zhou was formerly a member of the Standing Committee of th
e Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee.
So far the most prominent official taken down by the country's anti-corruption drive, Zhou's trial was a symbol of the CPC's commitment to the rule of law.
Since taking office in late 2012, the current CPC leadership has taken anticorruption as a "life-or-death matter" for Party and country. The campaign has boosted people's confidence in, and support for, the Party.
Zhou's case not only shows the Party's courage in facing up to weakness and disciplining itself, but is a strong warning to those in power. Only by staying alert to temptation can an official refrain from crossing the line of integrity.
Zhou was convicted of accepting bribes of about 130 million yuan (21.3 million U.S. dollars), according to the judgement. The court ruled that Zhou had used his position to seek profits for five people, identified as Wu Bing, Ding Xuefeng, Wen Qingshan, Zhou Hao and Jiang Jiemin, and had personally accepted money and property worth 731,100 yuan from the latter.
Money and property worth 129 million yuan was accepted by his wife Jia Xiaoye and son Zhou Bin. Zhou was informed about these bribes after the fact. According to the judgement, Zhou instructed Jiang Jiemin and Li Chuncheng to assist in the
business activities of others, helping them to illegally obtain about 2.14 billion yuan and causing losses to the state of 1.49 billion yuan.
Zhou leaked five "extremely confidential" documents and one "confidential" document to Cao Yongzheng, an unauthorized person, directly contravening the State Secret Law.
The court statement said Zhou had taken "particularly huge bribes," but had confessed, pleaded guilty and repented his wrongdoing. The majority of the money was accepted by his relatives, without his prior knowledge. Zhou asked his relatives to return their illegal gains. All gifts and cash have now been recovered. These actions constitute "legal and discretionary grounds for lesser punishment."
The court said that Zhou's abuse of power and deliberate disclosure of state secrets were "particularly grave," but his disclosure of state secrets "did not have very serious consequences."
In his final statement, Zhou accepted the charges. "The basic facts are clear. I plead guilty and repent my wrongdoing," he said.
"Those involved, who bribed my family, were actually coming after the power I held, and I should take the main responsibility.
"I broke the law and Party rules incessantly, and the objective facts of my crimes have resulted in grave losses of the Party and the nation.
"The handling of my case in accordance with Party rules and the law reflects the authorities' determination to govern the Party strictly and advance the rule of law," Zhou added.