BEIJING (Reuters) - China will hold an “open trial” for fallen domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, the head of China’s top court said, state media reported on Friday, in an attempt to show transparency though the super-sensitive trial will likely be far from open.
Asked whether the trial of Zhou Yongkang and other felled senior officials would be open, Zhou Qiang, president of China’s Supreme People’s Court, answered that it would be “open in accordance with the law”.
Zhou Qiang, who is not related to Zhou Yongkang, made the remarks in an interview with state television carried by the website of the official Xinhua news agency.
Sensitive cases are generally held behind closed doors in China.
Last year, China arrested Zhou Yongkang and expelled him from the party, accusing him of crimes ranging from taking bribes to leaking state secrets.
Bo Xilai, a charismatic politician whose rising star was felled by China’s crackdown on graft, was also given an “open trial” - but foreign media were barred from attending and parts of the trial were redacted from a webcast.
Zhou Yongkang, 71, is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption. He is the most senior official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949.
China’s leadership has said it is working towards greater judicial independence, but critics say true independence is impossible because courts ultimately answer to the ruling Communist Party.
Zhou Yongkang was one of the most powerful politicians of the last decade, and the party will not allow itself to be embarrassed by revelations he might make in court. The state secrets part will also certainly be heard behind closed doors.
In a separate interview with state media published on Friday, People’s Liberation Army General Liu Yuan, a high-profile corruption whistleblower, praised President Xi Jinping for targeting corrupt “traitors” in the military.
“Catching Xu Caihou and Gu Junshan and other enormously corrupt, huge traitors are decisions made and managed by Chairman Xi Jinping,” he said, referring to two high-profile military officials who are under investigation for graft.
“Corruption in the military is the heartache of the people,” Liu added. “Everyone can understand that the biggest victim is the military itself.”
Sitting and retired military officials have said graft in the armed forces is so pervasive it threatens the country’s ability to wage war.
Sources have told Reuters that Guo Boxiong, who served with Xu as a vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, is also being investigated on suspicion of corruption, though the government has yet to comment.
Hong Kong media reported last week that Liu would only answer “you know what I mean” when asked by reporters during the annual session of China’s parliament if Guo was being probed.
“You know what I mean” has become a popular phrase in China to obliquely reference corruption, after a top official used those words last year to answer a question about whether Zhou Yongkang was under investigation before an official announcement was made.
Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence