In 2018 Sun Lijun was promoted to the role of vice minister. At 48 the Australian-educated official was given responsibility for maintaining domestic security (including in the special regions of Hong Kong and Macau). Later he was appointed deputy head of a high-level taskforce sent to Wuhan in February 2020 to fight the Covid-19 outbreak. Only two months after that, however, the high flier was arrested.
In making public the decision to expel Sun from the Chinese Communist Party last September, the anti-graft watchdog the CCDI opted for unusually stern wording. Sun’s wrongdoing included “groundless criticism” of the Party’s policies and spreading political rumours that had “seriously undermined the unity of the Party and endangered political security”.
After being sent to the frontline to fight against Covid-19 in Wuhan, Sun deserted his post, the CCDI added, and took “confidential materials” without authorisation. Earlier this month, Xinhua reported that Sun was facing prosecution for taking bribes, stock market misbehaviour and even possessing weapons illegally.
Given the severity of the allegations, not to mention the sensitive nature of Sun’s previous post in public security, there was plenty of interest in the latest instalment of the CCDI’s anti-graft documentary Zero Tolerance televised this week.
Sun’s case was known to be featuring in the five-part series and the first episode attracted more than 100 million views shortly after going online on Saturday.
There weren’t many details on how Sun had endangered Party unity or political security, although the CCDI offered familiar fare on how he had cultivated a corrupt circle of guanxi connections, sold official posts and accepted huge amounts in bribes.
Also named and shamed in the first episode of Zero Tolerance: four former senior officials of the Ministry of Public Security (MoPS), who were implicated in Sun’s case.
One of them was Wang Like, a public security officer in Liaoning and a former colleague of the infamous spymaster Wang Lijun (the man who fled to the US consulate in Chengdu ahead of Bo Xilai’s purge; sparking a major diplomatic incident – see WiC148).
Wang Like began offering Sun bribes in 2011 when the rising star was on a business trip to Liaoning. Sun accepted the initial cash – Rmb1 million stored on a bankcard – gladly. According to the documentary, Wang went on to visit Sun several times a year, giving him about $300,000 each time, hidden in boxes of seafood. Total payouts totalled nearly Rmb100 million.
With Sun’s help, Wang would climb the ladder to become Party boss of Jiangsu’s political and legal committee, before finally being exposed by the CCDI.
Another of the villains in the documentary was Gong Dao’an, Shanghai’s former vice mayor and public security director. In 2010 Gong was a public security official in a city in Hubei province. Sun took the initiative and helped promote Gong to a senior role in the ministry’s investigation department. The quid pro quo from Gong was giving his new ‘patron’ access to a large amount of sensitive information, including “the handling of various cases” that Sun didn’t have the authorisation to see.“I have never run a red light before. But when I got to the Ministry of Public Security, I thought it was normal to run a red light,” Sun confessed to camera in Zero Tolerance. “This is what happened after I lost consciousness of the rules.”
According to the documentary, the investigation into Sun’s “political gang” is still ongoing. And there could be more revelations soon, with the CCDI flagging another investigation into an even bigger ‘tiger’ from the public security apparatus: Fu Zhenhua, the former minister of justice.
The charges against Sun by prosecutors come amid a long-running corruption campaign that has hooked at least four million officials since 2012, Caixin reports. The anti-graft drive, launched by President Xi Jinping, went into a new phase in early 2021 when it started to scrutinise China’s law enforcement and judicial system, the business magazine warned.
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