Fu Zhenghua, China’s former justice minister and deputy police chief, seemed to have all the stars aligned for a high-flying official career. But instead, the 66-year-old has now become a target himself in Xi’s relentless crackdown on graft and disloyalty, which critics say has also been used to purge political rivals.
The one-sentence statement did not offer any details, yet intriguingly sparked an outpouring of cheers and applause online — from rank-and-file police officers and prison guards to investigative journalists, human rights lawyers and intellectuals.
In Xi’s China, the purges of political rising stars and powerful officials have become a common occurrence. But what’s remarkable about Fu’s downfall is how widely it is being celebrated — both by people working for the regime, and by those who have been subject to its repression.
Fu cut his teeth as a criminal investigator for the Beijing police. He first made his name in 2010 — just months after being named the city’s police chief — when he launched a prostitution crackdown on several high-end nightclubs said to have influential political connections.
Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.
“The targets of Fu Zhenghua’s crackdown are people at the core of China’s civil society. Therefore, the country’s whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace),” said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing.
“His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China’s governance over the past decade.”
Fu’s heavy-handed approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, some of whom applauded their former boss’ downfall as “most gratifying.” Commenting on social media, many accused Fu of imposing grueling and unreasonably harsh requirements on grassroots officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.
Officials in China’s domestic security apparatus were urged to “turn the blade inwards and scrape the poison off the bone,” and to expose “two-faced people” who are disloyal and dishonest to the party.
Wu, the analyst, said the series of purges betray the fragility of trust from the Chinese leadership in the country’s domestic security agencies.
“It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance,” he said.