Nearly a month after its justice minister quietly dropped from public view, Beijing formally replaced him Friday with the capital’s senior official in charge of law enforcement.
The national legislature’s executive committee announced that Zhang Fusen, a former vice minister of justice and vice Communist Party secretary of Beijing, will serve as justice minister, replacing Gao Changli.
The announcement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, did little to clear up the mystery surrounding Gao’s removal. Xinhua provided no reason for the personnel change.
Justice Ministry officials previously acknowledged that Gao was replaced by Zhang in late November but did not elaborate. Speculation immediately centered on corruption — a prominent problem for the communist leadership. Lawyers in Beijing and Hong Kong media said Gao was suspected of illegally giving out government housing.
The State Council, or Cabinet, in presenting Zhang’s appointment to the National People’s Congress noted that “he is honest, enterprising, clear-headed in policy-making and strict with himself,” Xinhua reported.
The congress’ standing committee readily admitted corruption was behind the expulsion of two deputies on Thursday. Cong Fukui, a senior party official in Hebei province, and Mayor Zhang Erchen of Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital.
The Hebei legislature last month stripped them of their seats, Zhang for alleged economic misdeeds and Cong for allegedly accepting bribes as well as other graft. Xinhua noted the cases against them in announcing their expulsion.
Hebei is among a plethora of corruption scandals that mainland Chinese leaders are trying to dispose of in a high-profile effort to regain public confidence in communist rule.