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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Assassination Rumors Circulate in China

Gordon G. Chang discusses rumors of attempted assassinations and arrests among China's ruling elite.

For about a week, assassination rumors have been swirling around the Chinese capital. According to reports carried in Hong Kong outlets such as Mingjing News, Zhou Yongkang has been detained for involvement in a plot to kill Xi Jinping, the newish ruler of China. Since then, various sites, especially the U.S.-based Boxun News, have carried articles relaying murderous activities attributed to Zhou, who was the country’s internal security czar until November 2012.


Zhou, 71, has also been accused of using two members of the People’s Armed Police — once under his command — to kill his ex-wife. His two drivers reportedly confessed to their role in the murder and were given terms of 15 to 20 years in prison. According to news articles, they were released after serving just three and four years and given jobs in the state-run petroleum industry, which at the time was controlled by Zhou and his political allies.


... The rumors of last week, although highly sensational, provide a context for events in the past few months that at the time had seemed out-of-place. In August, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Zhou was under investigation for corruption.


Then, the move against Zhou seemed to be an unprecedented violation of the Communist Party’s unwritten rule that no member of the Politburo Standing Committee can be held accountable (Zhou left the Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power, in November 2012). The prosecution, however, becomes more understandable if he in fact plotted to kill Xi Jinping.


It should also be noted that the rumors about Zhou’s coup attempt give credence to the stories that in March of 2012 there was gunfire inside Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing, and in the surrounding streets, where there were also armored car movements. And the unconfirmed stories add to the speculation that Bo Xilai, once China’s more openly ambitious politician, was trying to either raise a private army or encourage elements of the People’s Liberation Army to support him in subversive endeavors of some sort. Bo and Zhou are believed to have been, if not co-conspirators, then extremely close allies.
 Chang warns:  "Beijing today has the feel of a century ago, the late Qing dynasty. From China’s last imperial period, the country is now coming full circle. After a brief period of apparent stability, we are, in the next weeks and months, bound to hear of more end-of-dynasty intrigue."

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