Zhou Yongkang life sentence: How China reacted

Zhou Yongkang speaks 18 May 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Zhou's fall from grace is one of the most dramatic in the history of Chinese politics

China's ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang's life sentence for corruption ignited a social media storm, with news outlets and ordinary people flooding the Chinese social media site Weibo following the news of his conviction.

Within hours over six million people had looked at the "Zhou Yongkang gets life imprisonment sentence" hashtag.

The majority of Weibo posts were positive, unsurprisingly, as the government censors the site.

Image copyright AFP PHOTO / CCTV
Image caption The sentence announcement took much of the media by surprise

Traditional media outlets were more conservative, with not all making it their top story.

Many chose to initially just report the state media statement on his sentence.

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Media caption"They should have just shot him" - people in Beijing give their reaction

'Old tiger!'

China's President Xi Jinping had previously launched a crackdown on graft by demanding "both tigers and flies" (meaning small timers) should be caught - a theme echoed by Weibo users.

"Haha! Put the old tiger in the cage!"

"I support heavy punishment of corruption! I resolutely support the catching of "old tigers!"

"Continue to catch old tigers, it makes the people happy!"

"Catch the flies and tigers, I support you."

White hair

Many news outlets chose to focus on the marked change in Zhou's appearance. Ordinary citizens retweeted screen grabs of his now white hair.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Zhou Yongkang - transformed into a silver tiger

"Zhou Yongkang has been stripped of the right to dye his hair - revealing the top secret of the party and government."

"Such big changes - he was once the powerful Politburo Standing Committee member and now he is all white hair and in such a terrible state! So the law applies to everybody."


Many of those commenting appreciated that the government had cracked down on corruption:

"Laws are fair and just; even if you are powerful and rich, the law will crush the evil."

"The revolution is here, the people's court has sentenced its first top brass."

"Finally we have got the sentencing on this very important trial. We hope the party and President Xi won't buckle under pressure on the anti-corruption drive, because we support you strongly."

Lenient sentence

Some remarked that his life sentence was not severe enough.

"This person really deserves to be shot dead."

"He should be shot dead; otherwise the anger cannot be appeased!"

Hong Kong-based commentator Willy Wo-Lap Lam told BBC Chinese that the sentence was a shock.

"The life sentence is lighter than previously expected. Zhou was widely expected to get the death sentence, or death penalty with a suspension of execution."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many wished to give Zhou a death sentence

'Biggest tiger' netted by authorities


However, others questioned the credibility of the trial and whether it was politically motivated.

"Please don't estimate the intelligence of the people. Get real."

"Zhou will not appeal, and admitted his crime - media wanted to interview me, but I don't feel anything - whatever happens, this has nothing to do with me, with legal reform, and with rule of law."

The decision to try Zhou behind closed doors also prompted criticism.

"The charges on taking bribes and abuse of power should be tried openly, and if the evidence touches on state secretes, it can then change to closed trial. This will be more in line with the law."

Willy Lam said that potential for political red faces may have prompted the secret trial.

"One possible reason is that President Xi Jinping worried that Zhou might say something embarrassing to the party if he got an open trial as Bo Xilai got."

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