Zhou, Bo formed `clique` to challenge leaders: Chinese media
The two biggest Chinese politicians to fall in recent years, ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang and former high-flyer Bo Xilai, formed a "clique" together, state media reported Thursday as President Xi Jinping pledges a crackdown on Communist Party factionalism.
Beijing: The two biggest Chinese politicians to fall in recent years, ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang and former high-flyer Bo Xilai, formed a "clique" together, state media reported Thursday as President Xi Jinping pledges a crackdown on Communist Party factionalism.
The two men "celebrated their political rapport" and vowed to "play a big game", the China Daily said, citing a lengthy report in Hong Kong`s Phoenix Weekly magazine.
The article appears to be the first time that mainland media have reported allegations of a faction formed by the two once-powerful men, long seen as allies by analysts.
China`s ruling party is riven by factional divisions but consistently seeks to present a united front to outsiders.
Zhou, who was arrested and expelled from the ruling party last month, is the most senior party official to face prosecution since the 1980s, in a fall that sent shock waves through the communist elite.
He moved one step closer to trial last week when the party`s internal watchdog announced that his case had been sent to prosecutors.
Officially the action against Zhou is part of Xi`s much-publicised anti-graft drive that has targeted both high-level "tigers" as well as low-level "flies".
But critics note that China has failed to implement institutional safeguards against graft, such as public asset disclosure, an independent judiciary, and free media, leaving anti-corruption campaigns subject to the influence of politics.
Bo, meanwhile, fell from grace after a scandal erupted around the 2011 killing of a British businessman, and he was later sentenced to life in prison for graft.
The onetime Communist Party star`s open ambition and hard-charging approach were seen to have led to his ouster from the ranks -- factors that experts say also contributed to Zhou`s downfall.
Last month, after a meeting presided over by Xi, the ruling party`s Central Committee issued a statement warning against factionalism.
"Party members should make party rules their priority, and the party is adopting `zero tolerance` toward cliques and factions within it," the statement read.
A report by China`s official Xinhua news agency later identified several factions by name, including a group centred on the powerful oil industry, in which Zhou was a key player.
According to the Phoenix Weekly report, Zhou and Bo once held a secret meeting at which they advocated "adjusting" the reform and opening-up policy initiated by former leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.
The policy has propelled China`s economic rise over the past three decades, and the country`s elite 25-member Politburo said in a 2013 statement that it "should be continuous and never stop".
The Phoenix Weekly report also alleged that in 2012, Zhou tipped off Bo that Bo`s right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, had sought asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu -- the move that blew open the scandal surrounding his boss.
Several mainland news sites have picked up the Phoenix Weekly report, and news portal Netease on Wednesday ran a slideshow of 20 photos of Zhou together with Bo and other officials currently being targeted for graft, some of whom were identified by red circles drawn around their faces.