China arrests ex-secret police boss on corruption charges

William Zheng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Nov 06 2021 09:50 AM

China has formally arrested a former official who used to be in charge of the country's secret police and also oversaw Hong Kong and Macau's security matters.

Sun Lijun, a former Chinese vice-minister of public security, had been placed under disciplinary investigation in April last year. On Friday, China's state prosecutor said it had ordered his arrest on corruption charges.

This comes about a month after Sun was stripped of his Communist Party membership and all official posts, in what has been one of the most high-profile corruption investigations in China in recent years.

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In a statement, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said that the National Supervisory Commission, the corruption watchdog for civil servants, had concluded its investigation into Sun over suspicions of bribe-taking and transferred the case to the prosecutors.

"The Supreme People's Procuratorate recently made a decision to arrest Sun Lijun on suspicion of accepting bribes," the statement said. "The case is being further processed."

Sun, 52, was the personal aide to former security tsar Meng Jianzhu, head of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission from 2012 to 2017. He was later promoted to lead the powerful First Bureau within the Ministry of Public Security, looking after China's secret police force overseeing domestic security and security matters for Hong Kong and Macau.

The party's internal investigation into Sun lasted 17 months, substantially longer than the six to nine months usually spent on corruption cases, indicating the complexity of the case and challenges faced by investigators.

On September 30, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the party's top anti-corruption body, issued a harshly worded statement slamming Sun for using professional counter-investigation methods learned in the line of work to resist investigators and failing to confess "(his) problems truthfully" to them.

The report also said Sun "had a large amount of confidential materials in his possession", without revealing further details.

Sun was the deputy head of a high-level team sent to Wuhan in central Hubei province in February 2020 to help contain the Covid-19 outbreak. When President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan that March, Sun was shown on national television reporting to him about the pandemic. A month later, he was detained.

Sun's fall followed the high-profile disappearance of former Interpol president Meng Hongwei on a trip back to China in 2018. Meng, who was also a deputy security minister, was jailed for 13 years in January last year for corruption.

In its September report, the CCDI also said that "(Sun) has never had any real faith or ideals ... harboured hugely inflated political ambitions, and was of extremely bad political quality."

"To achieve his political objectives ... (he) resorted to whatever means ... forming gangs and factions, seizing control of key (security) departments, seriously undermining the unity of the party, and causing extreme danger to the political security (of the party)."

"(For a long period of time, Sun) lived a decadent life, accepting huge amounts of bribes and expensive gifts ... (He) is a man with no morals, trading power for money and sex," it said.

After Sun's detention in April 2020, China's Ministry of Public Security, which oversees millions of police, called a string of internal meetings vowing to "resolutely and thoroughly eliminate the poisonous influence of Sun Lijun".

On October 16, the ministry's Communist Party Committee reiterated that it would thoroughly investigate all the clues involved in "the Sun Lijun political gang's serious violations of discipline and law" and show "zero-tolerance".

President Xi Jinping has declared waves of purges in recent years among China's 3 million strong domestic security forces, vowing to "turn the knife-blade inward" to gouge out those deemed corrupt or not loyal to the party and its leader.

A string of top security officials have been brought down in the campaign, including former Chinese justice minister Fu Zhenghua. TFu, who also served as vice-minister of public security, was detained for an investigation into "serious violations" of party discipline and law in early October.

In early September, Deng Huilin, the former police chief of Chongqing, and Gong Daoan, Shanghai's former police chief, were placed on trial on corruption charges. Deng was accused of taking 43 million yuan (US$6.6 million) in bribes and Gong 73 million yuan. Both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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