Zhou Yongkang Seen As Next Big Figure Marked to Fall

Zhou Yongkang, 70, a political figure of greater stature than Bo Xilai, is the next major leader likely to fall because of his connection to Bo, his own indulgence in financial corruption on a massive scale, and other violations, according to unnamed sources quoted by Boxun, a Chinese website based in the US.

As a member of the ruling nine-member Politburo Standing Committee and head of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee — which makes him China’s top security chief — Zhou has been more powerful than all but a handful of China’s top leaders. But because he tried to intervene to save the former Chongqing party boss, Zhou is now the target of efforts by Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping to purge the party of destabilizing forces, according to Boxun.

At last week’s Politburo meeting presided by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao Zhou engaged in the Communist Party ritual of self-criticism for having mistakenly backed Bo. But Zhou continued to defend Bo against allegations that he had been party to assassinations, economic crimes, an attempted coup and neglect in choosing key staff. Zhou also insisted that Wang Lijun, whose failed asylum bid at the US consulate led to Bo’s demise, be given only light punishment because he “performed deeds deserving of merit.”

Wang is the former director of Chongqing’s public security bureau who reportedly revealed that Bo’s wife Gu Kailai had ordered the death of British businessman Neil Heywood. Many believe that Wang is the source of much of the information that was used to oust Bo from all Party posts as well those that may be used to sentence Bo to death. But much damming information has come to light about Zhou as well, according to Boxun.

Zhou met Bo several times in Beijing, Chongqing and Chengdu to prepare him for promotion to secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee later this year. Once Bo was in that post he and Zhou planned to wrest power from Xi Jinping, the party’s next general secretary, according to Boxun. Xi is too timid to lead the country, Zhou reportedly told Bo and Wang. Zhou urged Bo to exploit his popularity and public support to seize power by 2014.

As the Party’s security chief, Zhou helped Bo and Wang buy advanced wiretapping equipment from Germany to eavesdrop on conversations of Xi Jinping, Wen Jiabao and propaganda chief He Guoqiang, as well as the other members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The trio planned to launch a wave of public attacks against Xi’s leadership around Chinese New Year, with Bo reportedly hiring more than 200 journalists and scholars to supply critical articles.

Insiders in Sichuan province and China National Petroleum Corporation have revealed to Party leaders that Zhou’s son Zhou Bin grabbed over 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in personal wealth with Bo’s help. Zhou Bin enjoyed power over the oil company and the assignments of top officials in Chongqing and Sichuan. He reportedly owned 18 properties in Beijing, including one valued at 200 million yuan ($31.7 million). He took large bribes from businesspeople and officials and sent the money overseas, Boxun alleges.

Zhou is also said to have accepted sexual services from at least 28 women paid by Bo and Wang, including well-known singers and actresses as well as college students. A famous singer was reportedly referred to him by Bo after he had slept with her.

But in accordance with the Communist Party’s longstanding practice, it will not take disciplinary action against Zhou, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee as long as he falls in line with the Standing Committee’s decision on Bo, Boxun reports. But if Zhou continues efforts to protect Bo and Wang, he will likely become targeted for ouster and other punishment at the 18th National Congress this fall during which the leadership transition will take place.

Adding creedence to such speculation is the fact that Zhou has been absent from public view since about a week after Bo was ousted from his Chongqing post.