BEIJING • The official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party yesterday carried a rare denunciation of retired leaders' continued influence, fuelling speculation over how far President Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign could go.
It came as the authorities busted a low-level Beijing official for allegedly embezzling more than 821 million yuan (S$27 million) - one of the largest amounts revealed in the crackdown.
Mr Xi's much-publicised drive against corruption has ensnared a long list of senior and junior officials, including the country's former security czar Zhou Yongkang, who was sentenced to life in jail in June. Zhou is regarded as an ally of former president Jiang Zemin, who ruled from 1989 to 2002 but is believed to have retained significant power throughout the following decade when Mr Hu Jintao was president.
Speculation has circulated over whether Mr Jiang could be targeted by Mr Xi and the party's internal investigation branch, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
In February, the CCDI posted an article online about princely corruption during the Qing dynasty, seen as alluding to Mr Zeng Qinghong, a former vice-president and Mr Jiang's right-hand man.
NOT QUITE RETIRED
"Some leaders... also want to intervene in the major issues of the organisation they formerly worked for, even many years after they have retired."
A PEOPLE'S DAILY COMMENTARY, criticising unnamed retired leaders
A commentary in The People's Daily lambasted unnamed "retired leaders" for clinging to power and causing rifts within the party.
"Some leaders not only install their cronies (in key positions) to create favourable conditions for them to wield their influence in the future, but also want to intervene in major issues of the organisation they formerly worked for, even many years after they have retired," it said. This makes new leaders feel fettered by having to work within unnecessary constraints, it added.
The commentary, written by Mr Gu Bochong, also accused the former leaders of causing rifts within the organisations and "undermining the party's cohesion and capabilities".
Mr Gu is an officer with the Chinese military's General Political Department, according to the website of the China Writers' Association, of which he is a member.
The People's Daily did not provide of description of Mr Gu, although it did so for all the other contributors to its "Theory" page, which appears every weekday.
The article compared a leader's retirement to the cooling of a hot drink. "The tea must cool after the guest leaves, otherwise it will go bad," it said. "It should become a norm that when you leave office, you leave your opinions behind."
The metaphor sparked a wave of allusions on China's Sina Weibo. "What if the ginger tea just wants to stay as hot as before?" asked one Netizen. "In that case, it has to be poured away." In Mandarin, ginger is pronounced "jiang" which also means high-ranking official.
Meanwhile, a report by the official Xinhua news agency said anti-graft authorities found that Zhang Peishan, a former low-ranking agricultural services official in a Beijing suburb, had misappropriated 821 million yuan from 2008 to last year.
The funds were used for financial investments, said CCDI. Zhang has been deprived of his party membership and his case turned over to the judicial authorities, Xinhua said.