INNER SANCTUM (6): Party controls law enforcement as well as politics

August 09, 2013

By NOZOMU HAYASHI/ Correspondent

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on Zhongnanhai, the seclusive political enclave in central Beijing, and the power struggles that have transpired within the Communist Party there. The series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


BEIJING--A middle-aged, close-cropped woman visited a lawyer’s office within a multitenant building in Beijing on June 20, exasperated at the predicament facing her and her family.

“Why have I been kept under house arrest? I want to question the justice of the law,” the woman told the lawyer.

The visitor was Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned human rights activist and one of China’s best-known dissidents. He was accused of “inciting subversion of state power” after criticizing the Chinese Communist Party.

Since October 2010, when her husband won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xia has been under house arrest at her home in Beijing for unexplained reasons.

She asked for a session with the lawyer because her brother, Liu Hui, an executive at a real estate firm, was charged with fraud related to financial troubles with a business partner. A court in Beijing sentenced Liu Xia’s brother to 11 years in prison--the same prison term given to her husband in 2009.

Liu Xia denounced the court ruling as “political persecution.” She also started preparations to file a complaint against Beijing’s public security authority over the illegitimacy of her house arrest, which had lasted for more than two years and a half.

But the Chinese government has given her the cold shoulder. A Foreign Ministry official simply reiterated that in China, a country under the rule of law, the Constitution and other laws protect the interests of citizens.

China’s Constitution stipulates in its preamble that Chinese people should build their nation “under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.” The judicial system is also under the party’s leadership. The party clearly rejects the principle of separation of the administrative, legislative and judiciary branches of government.

The party’s Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs is in charge of supervising courts, prosecutors and police. The secretary, or the chief, of the commission, Meng Jianzhu, is a member of the party’s Politburo with an office in Zhongnanhai, the walled compound for senior leaders and their families.

It is not uncommon for a senior court official to concurrently serve as a member of the central commission. It is an “open secret” that Chinese courts decide on political cases in line with the party’s intentions, according to a human rights lawyer.

Describing the role of the commission, a party-authorized reference book says the panel is responsible for “unifying the thoughts and actions of different arms of the government (like police and the judiciary) according to the party’s tenets and policies.”

Bo Xilai, who was secretary of the Communist Party’s Chongqing municipal committee, was able to strictly crack down on organized crime because he, as the city’s top official, controlled police and courts through the commission.

Party bigwigs and business moguls upset about Bo’s anti-corruption campaign were arrested on bribery and other charges, and their assets were confiscated.

But Bo suddenly fell from grace in the spring of 2012 amid a huge political scandal that involved his wife. In September, he was expelled from the party for his alleged abuse of power and bribe taking. He was handed over to prosecutors for investigation and legal action.


The previous installments of this series are available at:

(1): At secretive Zhongnanhai, decisions are made that can change the world

(2): For top party officials, decisions must be unanimous

(3): There are no ties in Standing Committee votes

(4): No one knows for sure what lies beneath Zhongnanhai

(5): Zhongnanhai swimming pools the source of rumors about top leaders

By NOZOMU HAYASHI/ Correspondent
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Liu Xia shows pictures of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, a well-known democracy advocate, during an interview in Beijing in 2009. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Liu Xia shows pictures of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, a well-known democracy advocate, during an interview in Beijing in 2009. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Liu Xia shows pictures of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, a well-known democracy advocate, during an interview in Beijing in 2009. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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