Former Chinese justice minister Fu Zhenghua jailed for life for accepting bribes

Former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, once one of China’s most powerful police chiefs, has been jailed for life for taking bribes, according to state media.

Wang Like, who was in charge of political and legal affairs in eastern Jiangsu province, was also sentenced on Thursday to life imprisonment for accepting bribes.

Fu, 67, and Wang, 57, both received suspended death sentences that will be commuted to life in prison after two years, without parole, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

It follows the jailing of three former regional police chiefs for corruption on Wednesday – all accused of disloyalty to President Xi Jinping and being part of a “political clique” led by former public security vice-minister Sun Lijun.

The purge comes ahead of a major leadership reshuffle at the twice-a-decade Communist Party congress that begins on October 16, when Xi is expected to secure a third term in power.

Fu and Wang were both sentenced in the Changchun Intermediate People’s Court in northeastern Jilin province.

Fu was convicted of accepting 117 million yuan (US$16.6 million) in bribes and using his position to cover up his brother’s crimes, CCTV reported. Wang was found guilty of accepting more than 440 million yuan in bribes, and for covering up triad activities and forging identity documents.

The report cited court documents that said Fu’s corruption went back to 2005, when he was deputy director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, and that he and his family had continued to take bribes until he was detained by graft-busters in 2021.

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When he was head of the Beijing PSB from 2014 to 2015, the court said Fu had “concealed clues to his younger brother Fu Weihua’s alleged serious crimes and did not deal with them in accordance with the law”. “As a result, Fu Weihua avoided prosecution for a long time,” it said.

There has been no official announcement about what has happened to Fu Weihua.

The court said Fu Zhenghua had admitted all charges, shown remorse and provided information to investigators on other corruption cases. But it said there would be no further commutation or parole granted after Fu’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment following the two-year reprieve due to the “serious harm caused to the country and society”.

The court described the bribes received by Fu as “particularly large”, the circumstances of his crimes as “particularly serious” and their social impact “particularly severe”.

Fu made a name for himself with a high-profile raid at Beijing’s exclusive Passion nightclub in 2010, just months after taking over as the capital’s police chief.

In 2013, he was chosen to help lead the investigation into former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life in 2015 for corruption and abuse of power. Zhou – once a member of the Politburo Standing Committee – is the most senior official to fall in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.

Fu suffered a series of career setbacks between 2016 to 2018, first losing his role as deputy director of the party’s top security organ, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and later being removed from the police force.

He was deputy minister of public security before he became justice minister in 2018, a role in which he mainly oversaw lawyers and prisons – a position seen as less powerful than his previous police chief role. He stepped down as justice minister in May 2020 and was appointed to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – an advisory body usually reserved for cadres near retirement.

Fu was placed under investigation in 2021 during a crackdown on senior law enforcement and judicial figures. He was expelled from the party and dismissed from public office in March this year, and his arrest was confirmed in April.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, said Fu had “lost his party spirit and principles” and accused Fu of colluding with Sun – the former vice-minister of public security who in July pleaded guilty to taking bribes, manipulating the securities market and illegal possession of firearms. Sun has yet to be sentenced.

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