China’s second most powerful man warns of dissent and corruption in the Communist Party

“No kidding!”
“No kidding!”
Image: Reuters/China Daily
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Some Chinese Communist Party officials are threatening to quit rather than pay membership fees, others cling to forbidden beliefs in religion or superstition, and some are even seeking to seize state power and split the party, Wang Qishan, China’s anti-corruption czar told party members in a recently publicized speech.

“Systematic corruption,” is gripping some government agencies, said Wang, who is considered the most powerful man in Beijing after Xi Jinping. The head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s internal anti-graft agency, delivered the speech at a meeting with China’s top political advisory body on Oct. 31, but it wasn’t until made public until Dec. 1.

Tough talk about corruption is not unheard of from Wang, who was behind the high-profile prosecution of Bo Xilai and others, but his extremely harsh manner and candid rundown of the party’s problems mean the speech was given great importance. It was first published online (link in Chinese) by top state newspaper People’s Daily, and has been widely reposted by Chinese news portals since.

Wang’s speech was meant to explain to the 300-member strong standing committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference what happened during key sixth plenum meeting days before, and particularly why the party had declared Xi a “core leader.”

Wang is ranked sixth in the party’s top leadership group, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, but his role as the commander-in-chief of  Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has made him so important that some argue he’s actually China’s second most powerful man. Now speculation is mounting that Wang, 68, could get another five-year term, despite the fact his age means he should step down next year. Rumors are also mounting that premier Li Keqiang could be ousted from the committee and his role, although he is only 61 years old.

Some party members “are indifferent to the concept of the party to such a great degree” that they are threatening to resign when asked for membership fees, Wang said. In February, Wang’s anti-corruption agency called on the party’s 88 million members to pay fees “actively, on time and in person” to express their loyalty.

“Some even attempt to achieve political ambitions by seizing party and state power, engaging in activities to split the party, and seriously threatening the nation’s political stability,” Wang said. He said the sacking and jailing of former top officials including Zhou Yongkang, former security czar, and Bo, the former party boss of Chongqing, prove that Xi has reached his goal of “comprehensively strictly governing” the party.

Wang complained that some cadres “don’t believe in Marxism-Leninism but believe in ghosts and gods.” For example, he said, incense for religious ceremonies is sometimes found in officials’ briefcases when they are taken away for corruption investigations. Zhou’s downfall was also connected to his “qigong master,” as Quartz reported earlier, who practices a form of martial art related to the spirit or “qi.”

Nearly every official that has been investigated refused to cooperate, with some destroying evidence or illegally transferring money, Wang said.

Two top officials were barred from the sixth plenum in October because their departments had “systematic corruption” problems, Wang said. While he did not name them, they are believed to be Li Liguo and Dou Yupei, heads of China’s civil affairs ministry. The two were reportedly investigated for corruption, missed the sixth plenum, and were removed from their posts in November.

Since Xi took office in late 2012, more than one million party members has been punished for violating party discipline, Wang said, and more than 200 high-level officials have received “disciplinary punishment” from his agency.