China’s disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang has been jailed for life following a secret trial in the northern city of Tianjin, according to state media.

Zhou, 72, was charged with taking bribes, abuse of power and intentionally leaking state secrets. He told the court he would not appeal the ruling.

Once one of China’s most powerful men, Zhou was a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee – the highest decision-making body in the country – and dominated the state’s sprawling security apparatus.

Placed under suspicion of “serious violations of discipline” in July last year, Zhou became the highest-ranking official to face conviction since the Gang of Four was tried by Deng Xiaoping in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

Unlike his political ally Bo Xilai, whose 2013 corruption trial was relayed in real time by the court’s official microblog and heralded as a sign of openness and future judicial reform, Zhou was sentenced behind sealed doors after a single court hearing.

The secretive nature of the trial draws into question China’s increasingly vocal commitment to the “rule of law” and does little to dispel suspicions that President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption is primarily a means to target rival factions within the Chinese Communist Party.


Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.