Public Security Minister Signals Purge With Mentions of Zhou Yongkang

Zhao Kezhi, the new public security minister, talked about making breakthroughs in implementing public security reform and emphasized the need to purge the  ‘pernicious influence’ of former security czar Zhou Yongkang during a Nov. 24 Ministry of Public Security (MPS) meeting.

The backdrop: Zhao has criticized Zhou in at least six official meetings since taking office after the 19th Party Congress. He has also called on the MPS to remain loyal to Xi Jinping.

Zhao Kezhi on cleaning up Zhou Yongkang’s ‘pernicious influence’
  Date Meeting Speech content
1 11-31-17 Expanded meeting of the Ministry of Public Security Party committee “Put the Party’s political building first, unswervingly persevere with the political building of the police, strictly comply with the Party’s political discipline and regulations, and resolutely purge Zhou Yongkang’s pernicious influence.”  
2 11-2-17 Expanded meeting of the Ministry of Public Security Party committee theoretical study group “Strictly maintain the Party’s political discipline and regulations, unceasingly elevate political consciousness and political ability, resolutely purge Zhou Yongkang’s pernicious influence and ensure absolute loyalty, absolute honesty, and absolute reliability.”
3 11-13-17 Opening ceremony for training sessions on implementing the spirit of the 19th Party Congress for bureau-level officials in the Ministry of Public Security and its subordinate departments “Resolutely purge Zhou Yongkang’s pernicious influence and ensure absolute loyalty, absolute honesty, and absolute reliability.”
4 11-14-17 Ministry of Public Security Paramilitary symposium “Comprehensively and thoroughly purge the pernicious influence of Zhou Yongkang, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou and others, and ensure absolute loyalty, absolute honesty, and absolute reliability.”
5 11-20-17 Ministry of Public Security frontier defense and supervision research group meeting “Comprehensively and thoroughly purge the pernicious influence of Zhou Yongkang, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou and others, make an effort to build a frontier defense team that is up to the mark, and ensure absolute loyalty, absolute honesty, and absolute reliability.”
6 11-24-17 Expanding meeting of the Ministry of Public Security “There must be a new breakthrough in next year’s Ministry of Public Security reforms. Strictly comply with the Party’s political discipline and regulations, and resolutely purge Zhou Yongkang’s pernicious influence.”

Before Xi became CCP General Secretary, the domestic security apparatus was controlled by the Jiang Zemin faction. When Jiang faction members Zhou Yongkang and Guo Shengkun was in charge, criminal cases in China shot up, and organized crime was rampant. The general public considered the MPS the most corrupt and murky government department, and it was the target of popular grievances. Furthermore, the Jiang faction tried to use the People’s Armed Police and public security officers in a coup attempt against Xi in 2012.

Our take:

1. In his 19th Congress report, Xi mentioned the “supremacy of the constitution,” said there was a need for “rule of law,” and announced a new Leading Group for Advancing Law-based Governance. This is consistent with his policies in the past five years where he closed the labor camp system, talked about implementing the “rule of law” in China, and held officials accountable for past wrongdoing even if they are transferred from their office or retired.

But Xi’s earlier reforms was met with stiff resistance from officials of the domestic law and security apparatus. For instance, the five Beijing police officers who killed environmentalist Lei Yang in a case of mistaken identity were found not guilty.

2. Zhao Kezhi’s statements about Zhou Yongkang and the need for making breakthroughs in reform suggests that he is keen to implement Xi’s legal and security apparatus reform vision. We believe that a thorough purge of the public security apparatus is forthcoming.