China sentenced its powerful former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang to life in jail on Thursday, after he was found guilty at a secret trial of bribery, leaking state secrets and abuse of power, in China’s most sensational graft scandal in 70 years.
Zhou, who was formally charged in April, was tried in the northern city of Tianjin on May 22. He admitted his guilt and decided not to appeal against the verdict, state media said.
Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the Communist Party swept to power in 1949. The decision to try Zhou underscores President Xi Jinping’s pledge to fight corruption at the highest levels.
“I submit myself to the verdict of the court, and I do not appeal,” Zhou told the court, in comments carried on state television’s main evening news.
“I recognize the facts of my breaking the law, which has caused great losses to the party. I again admit my guilt and am penitent,” a white-haired Zhou, who had not been seen in public since October 2013, added.
One source with the direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that Zhou was guarded by soldiers rather than members of the police force he used to command.
“He was cooperative during interrogations,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “His attitude was good.”
In ordering the investigation into Zhou, Xi broke with an unwritten understanding that members of the Politburo Standing Committee would not come under such scrutiny after retirement.
Zhou’s alleged crimes took place over decades, including when he was deputy general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), party boss in southwestern Sichuan province, minister of public security and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, according to the initial indictment.
Zhou’s wife and son, who testified via video link, took 129 million yuan ($20.78 million) in money and property, and then told Zhou after they had taken the bribes, the court found.