A SENIOR Chinese police chief sentenced to death for corruption also may have also been wiretapping Xi Jinping, it has been claimed.
The sentencing of Sun Lijun, 53, is widely seen as a sending a message to opponents by a "paranoid" Xi as he prepares to be anointed China’s leader for life.
The 20th congress of the Chinese Communist Party meeting in Beijing is set to hand Xi a third five-year term in office, setting him to be "president for life".
The party traditionally announces the arrest or sentencing of corrupt high-profile officials in the lead-up to congress as warn party members to toe the line.
Sun is a former vice minister of public security and ally of Xi, who oversaw the crack down on protest in Hong Kong and was even sent to Wuhan at the start of the Covid pandemic.
But he has now been denounced for leading a "political clique" which has "venomous" influence that is "seriously damaging the unity of the party".
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It's now been alleged Sun may even have been involved wiretapping Xi and other senior leaders.
The claim has come from veteran China watcher Bill Bishop on The Spectator’s podcast Chinese Whispers.
“One of the things that seems to be going around is that one of the vice-ministers sentenced was also wiretapping senior leaders, including Xi, which is one of the big taboos in government,” he said.
Bishop, who founded the influential Sinocism newsletter, added that Xi has been effective at “rooting out any potential competitors or challengers in the security services and in the military”.
After his arrest last year, a senior executive with Chinese tech giant Tencent was accused of turning over personal data from its popular WeChat app to Sun.
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China expert Ming Xia, from New York City University, told The Sun Online it was "possible" Sun Lijun would wiretap Xi – and he had both the motivation and means.
He said the "Ministry of Public Security has the technology to do this thing easily" and Sun "had the strong motive to do it for power competition and self-preservation", said Professor Ming.
Chinese leaders are "unprincipled opportunists with political high ambition and deep sense of insecurity" so "would apply any means possible to know everything about their leaders", he added.
According to Steve Tsang, from SOAS University of London, the Sun's death sentence "is undoubtedly a shot across the bow to warn others".
He described it as"a kind of a dirty Harry moment – make my day, punk – if you like".
Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong,says Xi is involved in a "bitter power struggle" with his rivals in security services.
"Xi is paranoid about maintaining his personal security and of course, his power and his status as leader for life," he said.
He said the harsh sentenced handed down to Sun will "serve to warn Xi’s real and potential enemies about the punishment they would get by disobeying Xi’s instructions orworse, through organising an anti-Xi cabal within the party."
Lam said opposition to Xi will continue and there are likely to be "more arrests particularly of personnel from the police, state security or military whom Xi suspects to be organising coups".
The image Xi projects to the outside world is of an all powerful leader shaping China's destiny at the head of a unified country and party.
Glimpses of light occasionally leak out of the Black Box of Chinese politics with arrests of officials like Sun closely watched.
But Xi is known to have a faction of trusted officials and military officers he has promoted, inevitably leading to jealousy and Game of Thrones-style plotting.
It's not just officials who step out of line or stand in Xi's way, China's super rich have also been brought to heel, including Jack Ma, a tech tycoon said to be worth £35bn.
He vanished after criticising the Chinese regime on his own reality show.
Down the years there have been rumours dissent within the party and even of coups to topple Xi.
In the murky world of Chinese politics where factions battle behind closed doors, wiretapping has been used to gain the upper hand in power struggles.
A former rival to Xi Jinping, Bo Xilai, reportedly wiretapped the then Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s telephone back in 2012.
The former powerful city mayor was once seen as a potential rival to Xi for President.
But the wiretapping and the murder of a British businessman Neil Heywood by his wife brought about his downfall and a life sentence for corruption.
Sun was convicted of taking bribes of around £82 million, stock market manipulation and illegally owning two guns.
His sentence has been suspended for two years and he was also convicted along with four of his cronies, who include a former chief of Beijing police.
Sun’s group allegedly included former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua and three former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi province, all of whom received heavy prison sentences.
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All of them are also former Xi allies who enforced anti-corruption campaign against "tigers and flies" – both senior and relative minor officials.
Fu led several investigations that brought down Zhou Yongkang, former security czar seen by Xi as an enemy.
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