The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is investigating the second senior law enforcement figure for "serious violations of discipline" to make headlines in a week.
Fu Zhenghua, deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is currently under disciplinary investigation, the graft-busting arm of the CCP announced on its website at the weekend.
Fu, 66, is suspected of "serious violations of the law and of party discipline," the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement dated Oct. 2.
Before taking up his post at the CPPCC, Fu had served as justice minister and deputy police chief for the Beijing municipal police department, where he was credited with a crackdown on the city's sex industry, earning himself a promotion to executive vice minister for public security.
The announcement of Fu's investigation came just days after the CCP announced it was expelling former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, accusing him of "forming cliques and cabals to take over a key department," and of having a private stash of confidential documents.
A report from state news agency Xinhua accused Fu of "overweening political ambition and very poor political integrity," and of spreading groundless criticism of party policy and political rumors. Both charges have also been leveled at Sun.
A Beijing-based rights lawyer who gave only the surname Li said both Fu and Sun had been relentless in pursuing rights activists and lawyers, and were driving forces behind a nationwide police operation targeting hundreds of rights attorneys, law firm staff, and activists that began on July 9, 2015.
"Fu Zhenghua and Sun Lijun are said to be the main forces behind the July 9 arrests of lawyers," Li told RFA. "Naturally, they implemented them rather than making that decision."
"Lately I heard [Fu] had many enemies within the [law enforcement] system, so a lot of people in and outside the political establishment will be celebrating his detention," he said.
'Plenty for them to find'
A person familiar with the case said CCDI investigators have been interviewing judicial officials across the country and in several cities that Fu often visited, including officials who had the most contact with him or who had been promoted by him.
"They are looking at the period from 2010 to 2015, but are starting with the five-year period prior to Fu Zhenghua taking up his post at the Beijing municipal police department," the person said. "There's probably plenty [for them to find]."
Fu was also among those tasked with investigating disgraced former public security minister Zhou Yongkang, who rose to power at the head of China feared "stability maintenance" system.
Zhou was jailed for life by the Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People's Court in June 2015, after being found guilty of bribe-taking, abuse of power, and disclosure of state secrets in a secret trial.
Zhou's sentence came amid rumors of a political coup attempt to topple Xi by him and jailed former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. China's securities regulator Liu Shiyu later told top finance officials during the 19th Party Congress in 2017 that senior figures had "conspired openly to usurp party leadership."
Earlier that year, Xi had accused five disgraced party officials, including Zhou and Bo, of involvement in "political conspiracies."
A human rights activist surnamed Zhou, who was among those targeted in the July 9, 2015 crackdown, said Fu was also behind the persecution of peaceful critics of the CCP, and of members of the banned spiritual movement the Falun Gong.
"Fu Zhenghua rose from the Beijing municipal police department to vice minister for public security," Zhou said. "He cracked down on civilians with huge force, although he was just an enforcer [of other people's orders]."
"[That included] the New Citizens' Movement in 2013, the crackdown on lawyers on July 9, 2015, and the persecution of the Falun Gong," he said. "He spared no effort in suppressing dissidents."
"He also led investigations when some of the leading figures in the [law enforcement] system were being purged," Zhou said. "So everyone in the [law enforcement] system hated him with a passion as well."
Fu was detained in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing in mid-to-late September. The Beijing municipal police department vowed at a meeting on Oct. 2 to cooperate with the newly announced CCDI probe.
Judicial and law enforcement departments across China have called ad hoc meetings to express their support for the investigation, and to "improve their political judgement," according to state media reports.
'Everyone is a suspect'
Independent political commentator Wei Xin said the fall of Sun and Fu comes ahead of the 20th Party Congress likely to be held in late 2022, and amid a growing sense of paranoia from the CCP leadership that those tasked with enforcing its totalitarian surveillance state could also turn against it.
"The central government is increasingly relying on the domestic security apparatus to maintain the stability of the regime," Wei said.
"But then there was the cognitive dissonance caused by [the alleged conspiracies by former Chongqing police chief] Wang Lijun and [former Chongqing party chief] Bo Xilai."
"Now, everyone in the [law enforcement system] is a suspect," he said. "They are seen as politically unreliable will never win the ultimate trust [of the CCP leadership]."
The flight by then Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun to the U.S. consulate in Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu on Feb. 6, 2012 began a string of events that led to his jailing, as well as that of his boss Bo Xilai for corruption and Bo's wife Gu Kailai for the murder of British businessman and family friend Neil Heywood.
Bo was handed a life sentence in prison on bribery charges, a 15-year jail term for embezzlement, and seven years for abuse of power in September 2013.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Qiao Long and Raymond Chung.