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Former Chinese Communist Party head Jiang Zemin raises his hand at the closing of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 14, 2012. The aged Jiang recently had dinner with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in an effort to shore up his waning influence, writes Xia Xiaoqiang. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images)
According to several major Communist Party mouthpiece media, Jiang Zemin, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. Secretary of State, discussed “very important” issues over dinner recently. Whatever Jiang had to discuss with the long out-of-office U.S. official, the importance of the discussion for Jiang lay more in the visibility he sought than in the words he exchanged with Kissinger.
The report, based on a news release posted on China’s Foreign Ministry website quoted an unnamed “informed source.” At the dinner, which took place in Shanghai on July 3, Jiang is said to have praised Xi Jinping, saying “China needs a strong leader,” and that Xi Jinping is “highly competent and wise.”
The report did not spell out what exactly the “very important” issues were discussed, but reading the tea leaves, one can see that Jiang is under tremendous pressure.
First, it is rare to have news about an appearance by Jiang reported so tardily—19 days after it took place, and is an indication of his waning influence. When Jiang stepped down in 2004, he still maintained much of his power on stage and behind the scenes.
After Hong Kong media reported in 2011 that he was “hovering between life and death,” Jiang made a number of public appearances, more so in the aftermath of the Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun scandal last year, which disclosed intense factional infighting among the top Communist Party officials before the 18th Party Congress.
News generated by Jiang kept appearing in mainland and overseas media, and this continued until Xi took over power completely in the first part of this year.
The majority of Jiang’s appearances were chosen to occur at critical moments when his supporters were facing being purged, in an attempt to back them up.
Jiang’s recent appearance serves the same purpose, although previous ones were usually not as formal and did not scale up to the official report published this time. Then, what does Jiang’s latest reappearance signal?
Corruption & Infighting
Since Xi became the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the state, he promised to clean up corruption within the Party and fight “big tigers.” But, as would be expected, reform and an anti-corruption campaign within the Party met with fierce opposition from Jiang’s group.
Liu Yunshan, a front man of the Jiang faction, has been using the propaganda apparatus under his control to try to force Xi to turn left. At the same time, Zeng Qinghong, a former vice-chair of the CCP and the power broker of the Jiang faction, created incidents in Hong Kong to pressure and embarrass Xi.
Thus, Xi was forced to start a rectification movement within the Party and the army and expose to the public the split among CCP leaders.
Meanwhile, Xi and Wang Qishan, China’s top disciplinary watchdog, have continued to clear out former security chief Zhou Yongkang’s subordinates. Zhou’s hardcore followers were sacked one after another. Jiang’s confidant Liu Zhijun was tried in order to pave the way for Bo Xilai’s eventual trial.
The labor camp system, where countless crimes have been committed by Jiang’s faction under Zhou Yongkang, is shaking. Some labor camps in Beijing and other areas have quietly begun to release prisoners.
In addition, media under Xi’s control recently took aim at Zeng Qinghong.
More crimes committed by the Jiang faction are likely to become exposed, and Jiang himself may become a “big tiger” any time.
In such an environment, Jiang was forced to make an appearance. On the surface, Jiang’s lavishing compliments on Xi gave the impression of weakness and of begging for mercy. But the compliments also sent a message to the world that Jiang and Xi enjoy a harmonious relationship when in actuality an intense battle and a serious split separates them and their factions.
Crimes Against Humanity
Jiang’s high-profile appearance at this time has to do with another issue, which will determine and affect the future of China’s politics and society, and that is the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.
July 20 marked the 14th anniversary of the persecution launched by Jiang Zemin. Falun Gong practitioners around the world held large-scale rallies and marches to expose the CCP’s crimes to the international community. They also displayed the goodness of Falun Gong’s belief in the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Many media and governments have condemned the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong, including tens of thousands of cases of forced live organ harvesting from illegally detained practitioners. How to punish the culprits has become a focal point.
On July 19, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falung Gong (WOIPFG) http://www.zhuichaguoji.org/ called on Chinese leaders to arrest the main protagonists of the persecution: Jiang Zemin, former security chief Luo Gan, head of the “610 Office” Liu Jing, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, former vice-chair Zeng Qinghong, former Politburo Standing Committee member Li Lanqing, former propaganda chief Li Changchun, former chairman of the People’s Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin, former Politburo member Liu Qi, former Politburo Standing Committee member Wu Guanzheng, and other high-level CCP officials who have followed Jiang Zemin’s orders in carrying out the genocide against tens of millions of Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong.
The announcement stated that if the current regime leaders delay, object, avoid or show indifference, they would be committing the crime of complicity.
Jiang’s high-profile appearance at this time is a move to save himself and his faction.
However, the important message is for the current CCP leaders to seize the opportunity to end the persecution of Falun Gong and bring Jiang Zemin to justice while they can. It is an urgent matter that determines their own futures.
Jiang is letting them know that he is not dead yet and is expecting his trial.
Translated by Quincy Yu. Written in English by Gisela Sommer.