China brings in new security boss with 'downgraded position' after Bo Xilai scandal
In a sign of how disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai's affair has shaped the thinking of China's rulers, the incoming Communist Party leadership has appointed a new domestic security chief, but with downgraded position.
The move could strengthen the rule of law after a decade in which the security forces amassed vast new powers and resources.
Party insiders said that it is a direct consequence of the scandal surrounding Xilai, the former party highflier whose wife was convicted in August of murdering a British businessman.
China's Politics and Law Commission, which oversees the police, above, has grown so powerful some say it acts like a state within a state, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, many in the party thought Xilai was a potential candidate for the internal security post, a position in which he could have challenged the authority of new party leader Xi Jinping.
Analysts said that the move appears designed to prevent any one leader, like Xilai, from using the security apparatus for political ends.
The state-run Xinhua news agency said Meng Jiangzhu, the public security minister, had been appointed to head the party's Politics and Law Commission.
The shadowy body oversees police, prosecutors, judges and spies and controls an annual budget larger even than the declared yearly military spending estimated at more than 100 billion dollars for 2012, the report said.
The body's previous head, Zhou Yongkang, was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the top governing body, and an active supporter of Xilai.
But his post was one of two that were cut from the top leadership body when its seven new members were unveiled on Thursday.
According to the report, party insiders and analysts said that outgoing and retired leaders agreed to downgrade the post because they feared that Zhou had accumulated excessive powers over the last five years, and that those powers could have been transferred to Xilai.
Some of those people also said that the move was designed to strengthen China's fledgling legal system, which has been undermined in the last five years by the rapid expansion of police powers, and predominance of police officers in local branches of the Politics and Law Commission, the report added.
According to the report, although most party leaders are still wary of a truly independent judiciary, which they fear could challenge their legitimacy, many do accept that a stronger legal system is needed to help enhance property rights, and empower citizens to deal with local corruption and abuse of power, political insiders and analysts said.