Security tsar Zhou Yongkang has condemned the use of torture and the suspicious deaths of suspects in a speech to law enforcement cadres - a move seen as an attempt to distance himself from ousted Chongqing boss Bo Xilai.
The speech - printed yesterday in Qiushi Journal, the party's main political theory magazine - was the surest sign yet that Zhou has escaped any repercussions from his rumoured connections to and support for the disgraced party boss.
In it, Zhou called for law enforcement officials to say loyal to the leadership of President Hu Jintao, something they could do by steering clear of harsh practices, like torture and prisoner abuse, that might violate suspects' rights.
Such practices are widely believed to have occurred during the anti-triad campaigns led by Bo before his removal in March. Zhou delivered the speech on June 12.
Zhou currently heads the party's Politics and Law Commission, which oversees China's judiciary, prosecutors and police, and is one of nine members of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's highest ruling body.
'[Law enforcement officers] should, whenever and under any circumstance, maintain the same stance as the central leadership, with General Secretary Hu Jintao as its core,' Zhou said in his speech, stressing the importance of providing political training to police officers.
In the wake of Bo's downfall, Zhou was rumoured to have sought to protect Bo. There was also speculation that Zhou had been forced to step down from his position. However, his career seems to have survived the controversy and he has made multiple public appearances recently.
Some analysts have suggested that Hu was forced to succumb to the forces of conservatism, in deciding to put a so-called cap on the investigations into Bo's case, as the central leadership is eager to show harmony and unity ahead of the once-a-decade power transition at the 18th Party Congress in the coming months.
Zhou listed a string of problems involving police officers throughout the country, including that some use torture to extract confessions, some abuse suspects' rights, and even that some suspects die suddenly while being detained.
Zhou said police officers must always safeguard suspects' rights.
'We should prevent our officials from being distracted by financial temptation and personal connections, which would result in misconduct and unfair judgments,' Zhou said in the speech.
Meanwhile, the Chongqing Daily, an organ of the local party committee, published an editorial yesterday calling for a stronger rule of law, saying that no organ or people should be allowed to act above the law, a likely reference to Bo's governance.
Zhou also said police officers should promote social fairness and justice while avoiding corruption. And he urged law enforcement authorities to tackle issues that are of greatest public concern, in order to earn more trust and support.
Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that 2.33 million people joined the Communist Party last year. Its membership now exceeds 82.6 million - the world's largest political organisation.