China spy chief investigated for alleged corruption

Ma Jian the highest-ranking intelligence officer arrested in battle against corruption

The investigation of Ma Jian was the latest demonstration of President Xi Jinping’s drive to consolidate his control of the Communist Party. Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

The investigation of Ma Jian was the latest demonstration of President Xi Jinping’s drive to consolidate his control of the Communist Party. Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

 

A minister of China‘s Ministry of State Security faces investigation by the Communist Party‘s central anti-corruption agency, the agency announced Friday, breaching the wall of silence that usually surrounds the powerful and secretive ministry.

The investigation of Ma Jian was the latest demonstration of President Xi Jinping’s drive to consolidate his control of the levers of Communist Party power. The investigation of Mr Ma was disclosed in a single-sentence announcement on the website of the party‘s anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Mr Ma was suspected of “grave violations of discipline and the law and is currently under organisational investigation,“ said the statement, using the party‘s customary euphemism for an inquiry into corruption and abuses of power. In China, corruption investigations of senior officials are usually first done by the party‘s own agency. Then officials are handed over to prosecutors for criminal investigation, which is almost invariably followed by trial, conviction and imprisonment.

By taking down a senior functionary in the state security ministry, Mr Xi has defied expectations among some political insiders that his anti-corruption drive could peter out after a year of spreading inquiries that felled powerful retired leaders.

“Drastic remedies to cure ills must not ease off,“ Mr Xi told a meeting of the party‘s anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, on January 13th, according to state-run media. “At all times and under any circumstances, there must be a high degree of unity with the party centre in thoughts, politics and deeds.“

Last month, investigators announced a criminal investigation into Zhou Yongkang, who until late 2012 ran China‘s domestic security apparatus, including the courts, police and state security forces. Military investigators revealed in October that Xu Caihou, a former People‘s Liberation Army commander, confessed to taking bribes in return for handing out promotions.

The Ministry of State Security is among China‘s main agencies for espionage abroad and surveillance at home, and it works alongside military agencies and the Ministry of Public Security. State security officials have broad powers to monitor suspected opponents of the party and to stifle dissent, and their surveillance capabilities can give them sensitive data about Chinese politicians and business leaders.

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