Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

Court verdict may shed light on why rising Chinese political star Zhao Yong was sidelined

  • Former deputy party boss of Hebei’s link to a corruption case is revealed in court document released online
  • It does not say if he is under investigation or accused of any wrongdoing
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2019, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2019, 10:33pm

Details have emerged in a corruption case that could shed light on why Zhao Yong – a former Hebei deputy party boss and rising star in Chinese politics – has been sidelined in the past two years.

The case also shows the impact of President Xi Jinping’s far-reaching anti-corruption drive. After six years, tens of thousands of officials at all levels have been jailed – but far more have had their political careers cut short for wrongdoings that may not have been serious enough to warrant punishment but were enough to end their rise up the ranks.

Zhao Yong may be one of them. His career started taking off in 2003 when he became deputy secretary of the Communist Youth League, a body that was once the leading recruitment channel for top Communist Party officials, including former president Hu Jintao.

In 2007, at the young age of 44, Zhao landed a seat as an alternate member of the Central Committee, the party’s senior leadership, taking his place among more than 300 political elites in a key role that paves the way for political ascendancy.

Four years later, he became deputy party chief of Hebei – the third most powerful position in what is seen as one of the most important provinces, surrounding the capital city Beijing.

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But Zhao’s star began to fade in 2017, when he lost his seat on the Central Committee during the five-yearly party reshuffle. That was partly seen as a sign of the youth league’s weakening position in China’s leadership. Around the same time, however, he was shunted to other jobs deemed less important, such as with the sports regulator, and later, ethnicity work.

No official explanation has been given for why he was suddenly sidelined, but the verdict in a corruption case made public last month may hold some clues.

According to Zhao’s testimony in the trial of Chen Yongjie, a business associate of former statistics bureau chief Wang Baoan, Zhao in 2011 helped to put Chen in touch with an official in Hebei who could approve his project.

Chen was found guilty in the Supreme People’s Court in November of paying more than 1.5 million yuan in bribes to Wang to get the project approved in Hebei. He has yet to be sentenced.

Wang, who was also a former deputy finance minister, was found guilty of corruption and jailed for life in 2017.

The Chen verdict, made public on December 29 on the supreme court’s official website, gave Zhao’s surname and title, but his full name was not disclosed. But at the time of the trial last year, the position of deputy party secretary of Hebei was held by only one Zhao.

The document did not say if Zhao had been placed under investigation, or whether he had been accused of any wrongdoing.

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Wang took the helm of the statistics bureau in 2015, just months before he was placed under investigation by the party’s anti-graft watchdog in January 2016.

Later that year, Zhao was removed from his senior position in Hebei and appointed deputy head of China’s sports administration. Last year, he was moved to a deputy role in the National Ethnic Affairs Commission. While his name is still listed on the commission website, he is not believed to have attended any public events since November.