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Former security chief Zhou Yongkang arrested, expelled from Communist Party

China's former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party. Photo: Reuters

China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party and prosecutors have opened an investigation into the highest-ranking Chinese figure in more than three decades.

Zhou -- who retired from China's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in 2012 -- has been placed under a judicial probe over corruption offences, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Zhou "leaked the party's and the country's secrets," Xinhua said, adding that the once-influential official was found to have "accepted a large amount of money and properties personally and through his family".

Zhou committed adultery with a number of women and traded his power for sex and money, the report said, adding that other clues of suspected crimes by Zhou were also found during the investigation.

The announcement makes Zhou the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the Gang of Four were put on trial in 1980.

Zhou became ensnared in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive in July when he was put under investigation for "serious disciplinary violation".

Xinhua said the decision to expel Zhou was made at a Politburo meeting on Friday, indicating that the move was approved by the party's innermost circle of leaders, including Xi.

A key figure in China's powerful petroleum industry, Zhou was also a close ally of Bo Xilai, the former high-flying politician who last year was sentenced to life in prison after a sensational corruption trial that exposed intrigue and lavish lifestyles within the party elite.

Rule by law put to test

How the Communist Party leadership and judiciary treat the case of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang  will be the first real test of President Xi Jinping’s  ambition to promote government accountability and rule by law, analysts say.

Zhiqun Zhu, director of Bucknell University’s China Institute, said Zhou’s case would be a litmus test because it would be subject to the judiciary, not simply internal party disciplinary procedures.

Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University’s department of media and communication, said that through his handling of Zhou’s case Xi had delivered a powerful message to both serving and retired senior officials that their positions and connections would not protect them from wrongdoing. But it remained to be seen whether the decision on Zhou was a turning point in government accountability or was intended merely as a warning to corrupt cadres.

“The case is sending a powerful message that Xi is serious about rooting out graft among the elite ‘tigers’ as well as lowly ‘flies’,” Li said.

In addition to Zhou, Xi's anti-graft campaign has also led to the ousting of Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission.

Xu, who was a Politburo member until 2012, in July became the first of the body's former members to fall in the current crackdown on graft, which follows the ascension of Xi to power as the head of the party.


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