Security shake-up in store as new names tapped to run China’s police and intelligence services

Veteran provincial politician who has worked with two of President Xi Jinping’s close aides becomes police boss

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 11:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 November, 2017, 2:09pm

China’s intelligence agencies and its police force are in for a shake-up with the announcement of two key appointments at the top of the national security apparatus.

Zhao Kezhi, 63, who has worked closely with two of President Xi Jinping’s trusted aides, had taken over as Communist Party secretary at the Ministry of Public Security, the ministry said on November 1 .

He was appointed Minister of Public Security on November 4.

Zhao’s predecessor, Guo Shengkun, 63, is staying on as minister for now but also takes on a new role as the party’s domestic security chief.

As the head of the Central Politics and Law Commission, Guo now oversees not only police officers but also China’s judges, prosecutors and intelligence agents.

The announcements come about a week after Guo was promoted to the 25-member Politburo, one of the party’s innermost circles of power.

On Tuesday, Guo told the commission to work together on police and national intelligence services reforms, as well as changes to the judicial system. He also put various law enforcement bodies in charge of safeguarding the country from subversion, terrorism and religious extremism.

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Guo said security organs should beef up their “fighting capacity” with modern technology.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened centralised oversight of China’s security apparatus with new laws and leadership bodies.

In a July directive reported by state media, Xi put an overhaul of China’s intelligence agencies, which include the Ministry of State Security and the military intelligence unit, on Beijing’s agenda.

Over the past five years, Beijing enacted a slew of laws specifically covering national security, anti-terrorism, counter-espionage, cybersecurity and intelligence work.

Xi also chairs the powerful National Security Commission he founded in 2013, which oversees both domestic and international security issues.

Chen Daoyin, a Shanghai-based political analyst, said the reforms were designed to make China’s security forces more professional and unified.

“The powers of these security-related agencies are still fragmented,” Chen said. “The trend is for them to be increasingly controlled from the top.”

Chen said the Ministry of Public Security played a key role in protecting the communist regime, and Xi had likely picked an official he trusted completely.

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If precedent holds, Zhao will take over Guo’s ministerial job in the coming months and become a state councillor in March at the national legislature’s annual sessions in Beijing.

In his new role, Zhao vowed at a meeting on Tuesday to eradicate the “pernicious influence” of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on corruption charges in 2015.

Zhou was also a public security minister before his promotion to party secretary at the Central Politics and Law Commission.

Before joining the public security ministry, Zhao spent nearly two decades working in provincial government. This included a spell in Guizhou, a poverty-stricken province that has nurtured many top politicians now serving in Xi’s administration.

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Zhao worked in Guizhou under Li Zhanshu, a top Xi aide who is now a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

After Li was promoted in 2012, Zhao was made Guizhou party chief with Chen Miner, a protégé of Xi, serving as provincial governor.

Zhao was transferred two years ago to become party boss in Hebei province, a heavily polluted industrial heartland surrounding Beijing.