Zhang Yue, security boss of Hebei province, has been arrested for “serious violation of Party discipline” and is currently being investigated, according to news from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s website on April 16.
Zhang is the second incumbent Political Committee Secretary at the provincial level to have been investigated since the CCP’s 18th National Congress.
After Zhang was sacked, China’s media immediately published several articles that revealed the inside story of his ties to former security czar Zhou Yongkang; Deputy Minister of the Ministry of State Security Ma Jian, who has been sacked; and Guo Wengui, who controls Beijing Zenith Holdings.
The Chinese media’s coverage of Zhang’s alleged crimes was limited to corruption and misconduct, which are the stated reasons for CCP leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. However, the undertone of the story can be seen in the details; that is, Zhang’s resume.
Apparently, Zhang held a special appointment between November 2003 and December 2007 as the Chief of the 26th Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security. This department is the Ministry of Public Security’s “610 Office,” which was established to persecute the spiritual practice Falun Gong. In 2003, Zhou Yongkang held the appointment of Minister of Public Security.
The 610 Office is an illegal organisation established by former CCP leader Jiang Zemin on June 10, 1999. It is also called “the Central Leading Group for the Prevention and Handling of Cult-Related Issues”.
The 610 Office has been compared to the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany. It controls the police, Court, and Attorney through the Political and Legal Affairs Commission. It overrides the country’s laws, and is another power centre of central authorities.
For the past 16 years, the policy of persecuting Falun Gong has been passed down from the 610 Office and executed by the public security organs, based on Jiang’s verbal instructions. However, the 610 Office is a confidential unit, and many details are still unknown to the outside world.
The CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong has gone underground for the past 10 years. In order to hide the truth about the persecution, the CCP’s official media did not carry news about the 610 Office.
On Jan 12, 2015, Li Dongsheng, Zhou Yongkang’s trusted aide and the former head of the central 610 Office, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On Dec 20, 2013, Li was sacked, and official communications referred to his titles: vice head of the Central Leading Group for the Prevention and Handling of Cult-Related Issues; head of the office of the Leading Group (610 Office); and vice minister of Public Security.
The exposure of the name of that secret agency alluded to the fact that Li’s real crime was linked to persecuting Falun Gong.
Jiang’s faction of the CCP is fearful that once it loses power, it will be exposed for its crimes of persecution. On the other hand, Xi wants to run the country normally. The contradictions between the two were irreconcilable.
Due to the restrictive factors of the CCP’s system, officials in Jiang’s faction have been sacked under the name of corruption. However, if you look at the common thread among the officials—including former police chief Wang Lijun; former CCP secretary of Chongqing City Bo Xilai; Li Dongsheng; former CCP secretary of Qinghai Province Su Rong; former military general Xu Caihou, and Zhou Yongkang—all followed Jiang’s orders and committed crimes against humanity by persecuting Falun Gong.
As such, the crimes of persecuting Falun Gong, including the live organ harvesting from adherents, have become the Achilles heel of the Jiang faction.
Uncovering the inside story of China’s media reports and understanding their signals serve as reminders for people to make a choice. In the near future, when the persecution crimes against Falun Gong are exposed, Jiang’s faction and the CCP apparatus will be disintegrated.
Translated by Benjamin Ng. Edited by Sally Appert.
Xia Xiaoqiang, is a political columnist for the Chinese edition of the Epoch Times, he is based in Norway and has written analyses of contemporary political affairs since 2009.

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A once powerful provincial head of China’s security and law agency, who had built up his career through a network of business and political ties and had a prominent hand in carrying out a nearly 17 year-long persecution of a spiritual discipline, has recently been purged.
On April 16, the Party’s disciplinary agency announced that Zhang Yue, security boss of Hebei Province, was placed under investigation for “seriously violating Party discipline,” though didn’t elaborate on his wrongdoings.  
Zhang was dubbed the “security czar of Hebei,” according to NetEase, a popular Chinese news portal that published a detailed investigation of Zhang’s dealings. NetEase also reported that Zhang, who enjoyed swimming, used public funds to pay for a luxurious swimming facility (or bath house) in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei. The female staff at the facility, NetEase said, were hired for their looks, like “flight attendants.” Only public security officials were at or above the ranking of deputy department chief were allowed to use the swimming complex.
Business and Political Connections
Zhang Yue’s business and political network extended deep into Beijing.
Zhang established ties with Guo Wengui, a powerful businessman whose influential business network provided its members with political and legal assistance nationwide. Guo himself reportedly had strong ties with Ma Jian, the former deputy chief of China’s Ministry of State Security, and Ling Jihua, the former chief of staff to ex-Party leader Hu Jintao and former head of the General Office, a key Party gatekeeping agency.
Together, Zhang, Guo and Ma worked together to mount a hostile takeover of China Minzu Securities in 2010, reported NetEase.
The scheme provides an insight into how security muscle in China can be used to make commercial competitors an offer they can’t refuse.
They went to work on two of Minzu Securities’ main shareholders: Capital Airports Holding Company, the largest, which held 61.25 percent, and Hebei Bank, the fourth largest shareholder, with 6.81 percent.
Zhang leaned on Hebei Bank’s government regulator—the Hebei Banking Regulatory Commission—and had them threaten to throw a Party leader working at the bank into prison, reported NetEase. In June 2010, the regulatory commission allowed Beijing Zenith Holdings, where Guo was the controlling shareholder, to buy up the bank’s shares in China Minzu.
Zhang Zhizhong, the president of Capital Airports, was easier to dispose of: he was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Hengshui Intermediate Court. It is suspected, but not proven, that this was engineered as part of the takeover.
In January 2011, Capital Airports Holding Company sold all of its shares in China Minzu for 1.6 billion yuan (about $247 million), about 1.8 billion yuan (about $278 million) below market price, to Guo’s company. Beijing Zenith Holdings then became the biggest shareholder in China Minzu Securities.
Deals like this characterized the entrepreneurial activities of Zhang and his colleagues as they arbitraged their privileges in the public security and spy apparatus. But one of the key reasons that Zhang was able to obtain such unchecked power lies elsewhere.
Zhang’s quick ascent up the political ladder was the result of his connection to former security czar Zhou Yongkang, according to NetEase. Zhou is known to have built his own career, which also saw a rapid ascent from a provincial leadership post to a central Party role running security, by doggedly following the orders of former Party leader Jiang Zemin. Zhou became one of the most infamous perpetrators of Jiang’s policy to hunt down and torture practitioners of Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese self-cultivation practice, teaches five slow-moving, meditative exercises, and exhorts living by the moral principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Threatened by the rapidly growing popularity of the practice through the 1990s, and its independence from the state, Jiang Zemin ordered a nationwide suppression of the group on July 20, 1999.
Before becoming the head of the Party’s security forces in Hebei, Zhang was chief of the “anti-evil cult” bureau, or the “610 Office,” from November 2003 to December 2007. The “610 Office” was responsible for the persecution of Falun Gong, according to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse of first hand information about the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
The 610 Office once held a privileged position in the Party, but its prestige has come under direct assault under Xi Jinping, with its former head, Li Dongsheng, sentenced to jail for 15 years in January this year.
Zhang Yue’s rise may also have been assisted by a personal connection. His second wife, Meng Li, was friends and colleagues with Zhou’s second wife, Jia Xiaoye, according to NetEase. Both Meng and Li had worked at the state-run broadcaster CCTV in years past, Meng as a host, and Jia as a journalist.
The persecution of at least 10 practitioners of Falun Gong is directly attributable to the orders of Zhang Yue, according to the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a New York-based nonprofit.
Li Zhiqin, a Falun Gong practitioner from Xingtai City in Hebei, died in police custody on Sept. 12, 2007, according to Minghui. Ningjin Police Department has since produced a fabricated document claiming that Li had died of severe heart attack, according to Minghui.
Liu Yongwang, a Baoding resident, was a chief electrical engineer at a foreign company in Beijing before he was subject to persecution at the Baoding Forced Labor Camp in 2001 after being kidnapped by police in Shanghai, according to Minghui. For three years, Liu experienced multiple forms of torture, including forced feeding, being whipped by leather belts and bamboo sticks, shocks with electric batons, and being tied to a bed board. In June 2006, Liu was again abducted by police and taken to Tangshan Jidong Prison.
Liu was released after finishing his 8-year sentence in August 2013. And in February 2016, he filed a lawsuit against Jiang.

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The anti-corruption campaign of Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is entering its fourth year. Tens of thousands of CCP officials having been investigated, and several of those who formerly were some of the most powerful men in China having been purged and convicted. On Jan. 12, the first high-ranking official of 2016 was convicted and sentenced.
News reports in the West of the conviction of former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng focused on the 15-year sentence he received for bribery. But the coverage of Li’s trial in China revealed much more, suggesting the current leadership regards the persecution of Falun Gong to be the work of the faction loyal to Jiang Zemin.
From the beginning, the charges against Li Dongsheng for corruption have been tied to his role in persecuting Falun Gong.
The charges for corruption against former Public Security Vice Minister Li Dongsheng have been tied to his role in persecuting Falun Gong.

In December 2013, when the official website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced the investigation of Li Dongsheng, it used three of his titles: vice head of the Central Leading Group for the Prevention and Handling of Cult-Related Issues; head of the office of the Leading Group, a.k.a. the 610 Office; and vice minister of Public Security.
That was the first time that Chinese authorities officially admitted the existence of the leading group and its 610 Office, which was established on June 10, 1999 by then Party leader Jiang Zemin to eliminate the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. The exposure of the name of that secret agency strongly suggested that Li Dongsheng’s real crime was somehow linked to it.
When Li Dongsheng was sentenced, the only title mentioned in the report by state news agency Xinhua was vice minister of Public Security, but on the same day the business magazine Caixin put Li’s crimes back in the context of his role in persecuting Falun Gong.
Li Dongsheng, former head of the secret police task force the 610 Office, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 14, 2007. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
‘Sharp Weapon’
Caixin has played a special role in China over the last three years. It regularly publishes news that seems to come straight from inside Zhongnanhai, the Party’s leadership compound. Given its scoops on the anti-corruption campaign, the magazine is widely assumed to have a close relationship with the head of that effort, Wang Qishan. Caixin is also rumored to be close to Party leader Xi Jinping.
Caixin magazine has played a special role in China over the last three years. … It is also rumored to be close to Party leader Xi Jinping.

Caixin’s article bore the headline, “Zhou Yongkang’s Trusted Aide, Former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng Sentenced 15 Years in His First Trial.” In 2009, Li was promoted to head of the 610 Office and vice head of the leading group, as well as to the position of deputy minister of Public Security. One paragraph mentions Li’s two titles related to persecuting Falun Gong, and then states that Li was formally promoted to be a high ranking ministry level official and thus became “Zhou Yongkang’s sharp weapon” in October 2009.
The phrase ‘Zhou Yongkang’s sharp weapon’ is very interesting.

The phrase “Zhou Yongkang’s sharp weapon” is very interesting. No law authorizes the persecution Li carried out. Instead, it is the Party’s political campaign. When Li Dongsheng took the positions in the leading group and its 610 Office, he should have been considered the weapon of the Party, not of Zhou Yongkang.
When Jiang Zemin started the campaign against Falun Gong, he was the paramount leader of the Party and the Party as a whole joined the campaign. During that period, Jiang and the Party were the same. Whoever in the Party leadership that did not actively join the persecution was the exception, and thus only represented himself or herself, not the Party.
When Jiang Zemin partially retired in 2002 and fully retired in 2004, there were subtle changes in how the Party was run that weakened the authority of Party head, increased the autonomy of individual Party leaders, and gave Jiang Zemin continued influence over the direction of the Party. The number of Standing Committee members of the Politburo—the most powerful body in the Party—increased to nine. The additional members were loyal to Jiang, and, combined with those incumbent members who were also loyal to him, gave Jiang a preponderant influence.
Zhou Yongkang, formerly the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of security, sits in a courtroom at the First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin in Tianjin, China, on June 11, 2015. Zhou was sentenced to life in prison. (CCTV via AP)
In addition to increasing the size of the Committee, Jiang decided that each member was only in charge of his own portfolio and nobody should have veto power over others. Luo Gan, and Zhou Yongkang, who replaced Luo in 2007, became the Standing Committee members charged with carrying out the persecution, and the new arrangements gave them a free hand.
The hidden message of the Caixin article referring to “Zhou Yongkang’s sharp weapon” is that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the top two leaders at the time, were not responsible for the persecution.
In June 2015, Zhou Yongkang was sentenced to life in prison for three crimes: receiving bribes, abuse of power, and leaking state secrets. But these charges do not comprehend all of his crimes or even the worst of his crimes. His actual crimes may be divided into at least three parts: corruption, conspiracy against Xi Jinping (now alluded to in the official press as non-organizational political activities), and the persecution of Falun Gong and other religious groups.
Caixin’s article implies that Li Dongsheng’s corruption and persecution of Falun Gong were related to Zhou Yongkang. Does Caixin also imply Li was a weapon in Zhou’s conspiracy?
MORE:Huang Jiefu’s Sleight of Hand: Hiding the Organ Harvesting Taking Place in Plain SightDid the Chinese Regime Admit Torture?
In June 2012, Bloomberg published an exclusive exposé of the

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Chinese paramilitary police patrol the Great Hall of the People in November 2013. (Mark RalstonAFP/Getty Images)Chinese paramilitary police patrol the Great Hall of the People in November 2013. (Mark RalstonAFP/Getty Images)

Chinese media revealed the identity of the newly appointed chief of a Chinese communist secret police force recently, but within hours the news was deleted from all major websites.

The unusual report took place when Xi Jinping, the Party leader, was in the United States. There are indications that for the last three years he has been marginalizing the secret Party task force, called the 610 Office, which is in charge of the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice and other groups that the Communist Party considers its enemies.

It’s unclear whether the news of the recent appointment of Fu Zhenghua, the vice minister of public security, will change the institution.

A Secretive Task Force

The 610 Office is a secretive entity with sweeping and vaguely defined powers, often likened to the Chinese version of the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany. It was set up by former head of the Party Jiang Zemin on June 10, 1999 (the date from which its name is drawn) with the express purpose of carrying out the persecution of Falun Gong.

A high-level committee (The Leading Small Group for Handling the Falun Gong Problem) was also formed to oversee its work, headed up by some of the most powerful men in the country at the time. 

They don’t want this organization at the center of any policy. They don’t want to mention this office in public.

— Xia Yiyang, Chinese security researcher

Falun Gong is a Chinese spiritual practice that teaches the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, and includes slow-moving meditative exercises. It had attracted between 70 million and 100 million practitioners in China by 1999, according to official and Falun Gong sources.

Li Dongsheng, former head of the 610 Office,  in Beijing, October 2007. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Li Dongsheng, head of the 610 Office, in Beijing, in October 2007. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The campaign against it has been one of the most ferocious security mobilizations in recent Chinese history, involving beatings, mass incarceration, and torture aimed at having Falun Gong adherents renounce their beliefs and pledge loyalty to the Party, according to human rights researchers. Directing that effort has been the 610 Office.

Leadership of the agency had always been shrouded in secrecy. But since Xi Jinping’s ascension to power, two major announcements seemed to indicate that it was being sidelined in the Party structure.

Publicity Shy

When Li Dongsheng, a crony of the former security czar Zhou Yongkang, was purged in December 2013, his title as director of the 610 Office was prominently displayed. Those paying attention knew the office no longer had a leader.

Liu Jinguo assumed the post in January of 2014, though nothing was stated in the media until much later in the year. It was then announced that he had been appointed second-in-command of the Party’s internal investigatory agency, an intensive role that indicated his energies would not be devoted to his 610 work. In May of 2015 the news that Liu was no longer head of the 610 Office was publicized prominently by major mouthpiece media, including People’s Daily. The successor was not known until now, and it’s unclear when Fu Zhenghua began the job.

Both of these gestures were, strictly speaking, quite unnecessary, said Xia Yiyang, a senior director at the Human Rights Law Foundation, whose work focuses on tracing the operations of China’s security apparatus.

“The reports had political motives. There was no need to expose Li Dongsheng’s title. When that was done, a signal had been sent. After that, Liu Jinguo was kept relatively low key,” he said in a telephone interview. 

It’s a signal that the 610 Office is continuing as a Chinese Communist Party entity persecuting Falun Gong and other religious groups.

— Sarah Cook,senior research analyst for East Asia, Freedom House

It had appeared for a period earlier this year the 610 Office had no leadership—at least, no new leader was announced. And it seemed the intention of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping to keep it that way, given the manner in which the recent reports were so quickly deleted.

Fu Zhenghua’s new position was reported by the Xinjiang Daily, in an article listing the 69 delegates from Party Central who attended a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the PRC’s control over the Xinjiang region, populated by the Uyghurs, a Turkic, Muslim people.

Reports were then recirculated on mainland Web portals, such as Sina, Phoenix, and The Paper—but within hours the news was purged from all of them. And the news did not appear in the authoritative media People’s Daily or Xinhua, reliable bellwethers of central policy.

Whether the initial report was intentional or not is also in question. Xia, the researcher, outlined two possibilities: One, the factional—that those who have a stake in the persecution of Falun Gong, and the future of the 610 Office, saw to it that Fu Zhenghua’s title was publicized. The other is that it was simply an accident.

It was clear, though, that unlike the previous publicity associated with the 610 Office, playing up the agency “is not the intention of the current leadership,” Xia said. “They don’t want this organization at the center of any policy. They don’t want to mention this office in public.”

Optics and propaganda aside, there are both institutional and personnel considerations related to Fu Zhenghua’s appointment.

Fu the Turncoat

Fu’s background is firmly in the camp of Zhou Yongkang, the purged former security boss, and he has over the years been heavily involved in the anti-Falun Gong campaign—for example, in his role as head of the Beijing public security bureau. 

But when it came time for Xi Jinping to eliminate Zhou Yongkang, Fu quickly became turncoat, according to widely quoted rumours in Hong Kong-based media outlets. This spared him the fate of his previous patron, according to those accounts.

Fu Zhenghua, the new head of the 610 Office, in an undated photograph. (freeweibo.com)

Fu Zhenghua, the new head of the 610 Office, in an undated photo. (freeweibo.com)

At the same time, Fu, like his immediate but short-lived predecessor Liu Jinguo, was an outsider to the 610 Office system. The other individual under consideration for the post, according to Xia Yiyang, was Chen Zhimin, currently the deputy minister of public security and the former head of the feared Domestic Security Department (“guobao”). “The operations of the 610 Office are very specific,” Xia said. “It’s not that anyone can take over and carry out the same policies as an insider.”

The appointment of two successive outsiders to the agency in short order, rather than the promotion of a 610 stalwart that constituted its previous leadership (such as the officials Wang Maolin, Liu Jing, or Li Dongsheng), is also an indication of the attenuation of its institutional clout, Xia indicated.

The broader framework for analysis about the continuing role of the 610 Office is its association with the political program of former leader Jiang Zemin, who has become the chief factional rival to Party leader Xi Jinping since the latter took power in late 2012. All of the senior Party officials to be purged in Xi’s Party rectification campaign were, if not specifically appointed by Jiang, known to be his loyalists.

‘Path Dependence’

But bureaucratic resistance to major changes in the configuration of the sensitive security forces may, for now, be preventing a genuine extension of Xi Jinping’s purge to the 610 Office. Any such change would also likely need to be accompanied by a shift in the policy of persecution of Falun Gong, which then becomes a sensitive and thorny political question.

In a recent journal article in China Quarterly, scholars Caylan Ford and Stephen Noakes use a theory of “path dependence” to explain how, after devoting massive resources in the pursuit of the fruitless persecution of Falun Gong, there has been “sufficient institutionalization of the suppression campaign to make the costs of its reversal or sudden conclusion unacceptably high.”

The appointment of Fu Zhenghua appears to be an expression of this path dependence, analysts said.

“It’s a signal that institutionally the 610 Office is continuing to survive as a Chinese Communist Party entity persecuting Falun Gong and going after other religious and spiritual groups targeted by the Communist Party,” said Sarah Cook, a researcher of China at Freedom House and the co-author of an analysis of the operations of the 610 Office.

While Fu Zhenghua’s appointment may not signal an intent by central authorities to reinvigorate the persecution of Falun Gong, confirming who heads the 610 Office could, at least temporarily, lead to increased persecution at the grass-roots level.

“If you had a situation where officials were not sure what the future status was going to be, it gave a little bit more space for uncertainty for local security personnel who didn’t want to implement orders,” Cook said. “Potentially now that space could close. It could be another level of consolidation of the 610 Office.”

Correction: An earlier version of the article indicated that Li Lanqing was the first director of the 610 Office. The first director of the 610 Office was actually Wang Maolin. Li Lanqing was the first leader of the Central Leading Group for Dealing with the Falun Gong Problem, whose sole executive agency is the 610 Office.

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