Zhou Yongkang, head of the party's law-enforcement committee, met his Austrian couterpart in Beijing last Friday. (Photo/Xinhua)
As the dramatic story of Bo Xilai's ouster continues to unfold, the political redress has just begun and the next target could be Zhou Yongkang, according to sources quoted in Boxun, a citizen journalism site that is sourced mostly by anonymous users and frequently makes claims that are difficult to prove.
Zhou is a member of the all-powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee and head of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee and was known as an ally of Bo's. Bo Xilai, former party secretary of Chongqing, had his membership to the Politburo and Central Committee revoked on Tuesday, underlining the end of his political career.
The Boxun sources say Zhou tried to save Bo from his political demise in the beginning, reportedly attempting to win him a spot on the standing committee. Zhou is now taking sides with Wang Lijun, the former director of Chongqing's public security bureau who reportedly revealed that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was behind the death of British businessman Neil Heywood. Wang dashed to the US consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6 in a bid to claim political asylum and allegedly to save his own life. He is currently under investigation and his failed defection attempt has been seen as the trigger for Bo's downfall.
According to the sources, Zhou criticized himself with respect to Bo in front of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao at last week's Politburo meeting. The 70-year-old still defended Bo on allegations that he had been involved in assassination, economic crimes, an attempted coup and neglect in selecting staff. As for Wang's disciplinary action, Zhou insisted on light punishment considering he "performed deeds deserving of merit."
Insiders say Zhou had met Bo several times in Beijing, Chongqing and Chengdu, planning to prepare him for promotion to secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee later this year. If the plan succeeded, they would potentially be able to take power from Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over as the party's general secretary, within two years. Zhou reportedly told Bo and Wang that Xi was too timid and thus not suitable to lead the country. He suggested Bo take advantage of his media power and public support to seize power by 2014.
Moreover, Zhou allegedly helped Bo and Wang purchase advanced wiretapping equipment from Germany to eavesdrop on conversations involving the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, especially Xi Jinping, Wen Jiabao and propaganda chief He Guoqiang. The Boxun report continues to say that they planned to lodge a wave of public attacks around Chinese New Year. Bo reportedly hired more than 200 journalists and scholars to join in the offensive.
The report also implicates Zhou in corruption carried out by both Bo and Wang. According to insiders in China's southwestern province of Sichuan and China National Petroleum Corporation, Zhou Bin, Zhou's son, secured personal wealth of over 20 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion), mostly acquired with help from Bo. The young Zhou held power over the oil company and assignments of high-ranking officials in Chongqing, as well in Sichuan. He reportedly had 18 properties in Beijing, one of which was worth 200 million yuan (US$31.7 million). He also took bribes from businesspeople and officials and transferred the illegal income to foreign countries, the report alleges.
Insiders said Zhou also accepted sexual services paid for by Bo and Wang. At least 28 women were involved in the sex scandal, including singers, actresses and college students. Bo reportedly introduced a famous singer to Zhou after he had had an affair with her.
Insiders told Boxun that in following previous practice the Communist Party will not take disciplinary action against a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. If a major problem occurs, the subject will lose power but not be judged in public. They say that if Zhou fully backs the committee's decision on Bo's case, he and his family will survive. If he insists on protecting Bo and Wang, he is likely to become the next target at the leadership transition to take place at the 18th National Congress this fall.
Zhou Yongkang 周永康
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Wang Lijun 王立軍
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Wen Jiabao 溫家寶
Xi Jinping 習近平
He Guoqiang 賀國強
Zhou Bin 周斌