In a significant political move, China’s ruling Communist Party is probing former security czar Zhou Yongkang for charges of corruption and abuse of power, targeting one of the most powerful politician in the country.
Zhou, who retired from the country’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in 2012, is under investigation for “serious disciplinary violation,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The term “serious disciplinary violation” in Communist Party of China (CPC) parlance refers to corruption and abuse of power. The Central Committee of the CPC has decided to place Zhou under investigation for suspected breach of discipline, it said, confirming rumours that he and a number of his close aides were being probed.
Zhou was the ninth-ranking member of nine-membered Standing Committee of the CPC headed by former Party leader and ex-President Hu Jintao, who handed over power to Xi Jinping last year.
Hu retired last year after the decade-long political leadership change in the Party. Zhou was considered the security Czar as he headed the
country’s powerful internal security department till last year.
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The move to place him under investigation is regarded as politically significant as this is the first time that a retired high ranking leader is being prosecuted, deviating from an established CPC norm for decades that retired leaders are not to be touched.
The Xinhua report said the investigation will be conducted by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. With the official announcement of a probe, Zhou becomes the senior most member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the infamous Gang of Four — a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong — in 1980.
The decision was taken in accordance with the CPC Constitution and the investigation will be conducted by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), its internal watchdog, it said.
Zhou’s downfall began when he backed the disgraced party leader, Bo Xilai. Bo is currently serving a life sentence for corruption, abuse of power and hounding a top police officer investigating his wife’s involvement in a murder case, who escaped to US Consulate in Chengdu to seeking asylum.
Earlier reports said, Beijing’s police chief Fu Zhenghua is leading the investigation against Zhou. Ahead of the probe, several officials at a state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) have been removed.
The probe against Zhou, who was connected closely with country’s most lucrative oil industry, is stated to be a rare phenomenon as the party never touched retired leaders.
The investigations against Zhou was projected as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive against corruption in the party and government ranks. Several high ranking officials including top Generals of the army were indicted in the ongoing drive against graft.
Xi has launched a nation-wide drive against corruption saying that both “Tigers and Flies” namely big and small officials would be probed and punished.
A number of officials are facing probes in different parts of the country and some even got suspended death sentences.