Critics of security chief questioned
Elderly Communist Party members in Yunnan have been questioned after their letter called for the sacking of the country's top security official amid rumours of infighting following the downfall of Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.
The open letter, addressed to the party Central Committee headed by general secretary Hu Jintao, called for Zhou Yongkang to be removed from the Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Committee's political and legislative affairs committee and investigated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Yu Yongqing, 79, a retired official formerly in charge of party affairs in Zhaotong, said he and 15 other party members, most older than 80, believed that Zhou was behind Bo, whose 'Chongqing model' included an anti-triad crackdown alleged by many to have involved the use of torture and a leftist revival that encourage residents to sing Maoist songs.
Many criticised it as a worrying revival of the Cultural Revolution, designed to win grass-roots support for Bo's bid for a seat on the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee during the leadership transition expected later this year.
At the end of the annual session of the National People's Congress on March 14, the day before Bo was sacked as Chongqing party secretary, Premier Wen Jiabao attacked the leftist resurgence and warned the country risked seeing a repeat of the Cultural Revolution without 'urgent' political reform.
'Bo and Zhou benefited themselves at the expense of sacrificing the future of the Chinese and they spent huge amounts of money to suppress civilians and pursue their power in the name of 'maintaining stability',' Yu said yesterday.
The release of the letter follows online speculation that Zhou has lost power amid infighting among top officials. The Financial Times said Zhou retained his titles, but handed over operational control of the mainland's security apparatus and confessed his errors in front of other party leaders.
But the party mouthpiece People's Daily and Xinhua have published the full text of Zhou's speech at a Beijing university last week, indicating that the authorities are trying to dispel rumours that he was implicated in the scandal surrounding Bo.
Open dissent or organised criticism of top leaders is considered audacious on the mainland and normally results in punishment.
Yu, who drafted the letter, said all 16 people had been questioned by local police about the letter, who else had signed it and where they had acquired the information it contained.
'They said that they won't punish us this time, but they cannot promise anything next time,' he said, adding that he and the others involved supported Hu and Wen.
Yu said most of the old party members had retired from schools and government organisations and some had been labelled rightists in the late 1950s and put into labour camps for more than a decade.