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Fu Zhenghua – the hunter becomes the prey

Picture from better times: Fu Zhenghua as China’s Minister of Justice in Beijing in 2019

Fu Zhenghua was considered the most dangerous hunter in Chinese law enforcement and a close ally of President Xi Jinping. It was Fu who cornered shady bar owners with his special investigations and brought down China’s most powerful officials. But all that is in the past; now, Fu Zhenghua himself has been busted. On Thursday, Chinese state television CCTV succinctly reported that China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate has decided to arrest Fu Zhenghua on suspicion of accepting bribes and bending the law for personal gain. It is the abrupt end of a stellar career.

Fu Zhenghua (傅政华) was born in 1955 in Luanzhou, in the northeastern province of Hebei. From an early age, Fu knows what he wants – and more importantly, how to get it: Just a few months after his 18th birthday, he joins the Chinese Communist Party. He is now one of more than 80 million CP members. They all know: If you want to be a civil servant, you have to join the largest and arguably the most powerful Party in the world. And so it is not surprising that only about five percent of the adult population actually make it into the Party. Fu manages it early. The foundation for a stellar career is set.

After graduating from Beijing Union University Law School 北京联合大学, Fu moves to the Beijing Public Security Bureau. He holds various positions there, persistently rising through the ranks until he is finally appointed director of the Chinese capital’s public security bureau in February 2010.

Fu steps into the spotlight

This is Fu’s first time in the spotlight. Only a few months in office, the city’s newly appointed chief of police immediately takes action against several owners of trendy luxury nightclubs, even though these establishments are all said to have influential ties to politics. But Fu’s plan pays off: His determination to also interfere with the business interests of powerful families earns him praise in the state media – and the trust of the political leadership.

It is Xi Jinping himself who, less than three years later, puts him in charge of the corruption investigation against Zhou Yongkang. At the time, Zhou was described by the media as “China’s security czar”; he was minister of public security and a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. It doesn’t get much higher than that in the CP.

Victory over the former security czar

And Fu also masters this task to the satisfaction of the political leadership. In 2015, once powerful and influential Zhou is sentenced to life for corruption and abuse of power. He is the highest party official to be toppled as part of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

But Fu not only takes on corrupt elites. As deputy minister of public security, he ordered a sweeping crackdown on undesirable opinion-makers on the Chinese social media site Weibo in 2013. In 2015, he is responsible for a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. In addition, he heads the Central Leading Group on Dealing with Heretical Religions (中央防范和处理邪教问题领导小组办公室).

Unofficially, the department is known only as “Bureau 610” after its founding date of June 10, 1992. Originally founded to fight the Falun Gong organization, Bureau 610 now targets a number of groups deemed “heretical” or “harmful” by the Communist Party. In March 2018, Fu eventually even became minister of justice – until 2020.

Fu’s career is a reflection of politics

Then things got quiet around Fu Zhenghua at first, but that turned out to be the calm before the storm. In October, an investigation was launched against him for disciplinary violations (China.Table reported). Yesterday, on Thursday, the arrest followed.

The exact reasons for Fu’s fall from grace are not known. Officially, it is vaguely said that he accepted bribes and bent the law. And so Fu’s career must be seen in the larger political context: Fu is said to have once described his actions as an “iron fist” – so his rise exemplified the increasingly aggressive approach of the political leadership toward dissidents.

Now, the 20th party congress is set for this fall, including a major shake-up of the Party leadership. Moreover, Xi wants to remain in power for a third term – after abolishing term limits in 2018. Accordingly, tension within the leadership appears to be high. Officials in China’s state security apparatus have been urged to “turn the blade inward and scrape the poison from the bone” and expose “people with two faces” who are disloyal to the party.

And so Fu’s fall – like his rise – fits into the current political climate: Even high-ranking politicians are not safe from a deep fall (China.Table reported). Those who become too powerful face termination. Past achievements then become irrelevant. Michael Radunski

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