China’s leaders have endorsed a corruption investigation into a former security czar who was until recently one of the country’s most powerful politicians, a newspaper said yesterday, in what would make him the most senior official targeted for graft in decades.
Rumors about an investigation into Zhou Yongkang (周永康) began swirling as early as April of last year because of his close association with disgraced politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來), who became embroiled in a scandal over his wife’s murder of a British businessman and who stood trial last week for corruption and abuse of power.
Hong Kong’s English-language South China Morning Post, quoting sources “familiar with the leadership’s thinking,” said China’s current and retired leaders reached the decision to investigate Zhou, who oversaw China’s state security apparatus and served on the Politburo Standing Committee.
The decision was made early this month during a meeting at a seaside town, the report said.
The newspaper’s report said the investigation will focus on oilfield and property deals that have benefited Zhou and his family. The report could not be independently verified. Requests for comment were faxed to the State Council Information Office, the Cabinet’s press office, and the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department, while calls to the Ministry of Supervision rang unanswered.
It has been decades since a Politburo Standing Committee member has been prosecuted by China’s judiciary. The reported investigation into Zhou, 70, may illustrate the new leadership’s determination to exempt nobody in its fight against corruption.
However, in a political system in which graft is rampant, corruption probes into senior officials have often carried political overtones. Prosecutions of officials on graft charges are perceived as moves to ostracize those who have been defeated in factional struggles, without publicizing details of infighting that depict party leaders in a state of disunity.