Tigers Who Talk Too Much

Chinese state media report on November 16, 2015, that senior Beijing official Lu Xiwen is under investigation for “severe disciplinary violations.”

News came back in November that a senior Beijing city official, Lu Xiwen (吕锡文), was being investigated for “severe disciplinary violations.” A summary of the case by the South China Morning Post at the time said this turn of events meant that “tigers,” or senior officials, had now “fallen from grace” in all 31 of China’s provincial-level administrative areas.

Screen grab of the release on the Lu Xiwen investigation issued by the CCDI on January 5, 2016, with language on “improper discussion” highlighted.

Chinese media are now reporting that Lu Xiwen has been formally expelled from the Party for a laundry list of alleged discipline violations — including violations of “work discipline” and “lifestyle discipline.” But it is important to note that the formal release on the case, issued at noon yesterday through the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), opens with a charge we have seen emerge only recently: “improper discussion of the policies of the Central Party,” or wangyi zhongyang (妄议中央).

The CCDI release begins:

The investigation has found that Lu Xiwen was in serious violation of political discipline, that she improperly discussed the policies of the central Party, that she routinely engaged in factionalism, that she resisted organisational oversight . . . .

The charge of “improper discussion” was introduced to the Chinese Communist Party’s new disciplinary regulations in late October 2015. The change prompted enough concern inside China that it signalled fresh restraints on internal discussion of policy at all (and therefore less collective leadership), that the official People’s Daily felt compelled to offer reassurances.

For more background on the recent use of “improper discussion” and its deeper historical roots, we encourage you to read Wendy Zhou’s piece, “We’re Not Having This Discussion.”

Lu Xiwen’s case suggests that China’s senior Party leadership is very alert to the threat of dissent within its ranks, and that “improper discussion” is an issue we must continue to watch.