China has begun an investigation into a senior official at the powerful public security ministry, the government announced on Friday, as speculation swirls about the fate of the country’s former domestic security czar.
The Chinese Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog said in a brief statement that Chinese Deputy Public Security Minister Li Dongsheng (李東生) is under investigation for “suspected serious law and discipline violations,” which normally refers to corruption.
No further details were given about the probe into Li, who is also deputy head of a central government group responsible for handling what Beijing terms “evil cults” such as the banned spiritual group Falun Gong.
It was not possible to reach Li for comment.
Li joined the Public Security Ministry in 2009, having previously served as a deputy propaganda minister, and helped oversee security for the 2010 Asian Games in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, according to state media.
Of the Public Security Ministry’s nine deputy ministers, listed on its Web site in order of importance, Li is ranked second. His name was still on the list as of late Friday evening.
The news comes as China’s retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang (周永康), one of the most powerful politicians of the past decade, has been placed under virtual house arrest while the party investigates accusations of corruption against him, sources said earlier this month.
Overseas Chinese media in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US have carried lurid reports about the crimes Zhou is suspected of, but Beijing has said nothing about his fate and it has not been possible to reach him for comment.
The Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection — the party’s anti-graft watchdog — said last month it would target all senior officials, as part of reforms to deepen its war on corruption.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has pursued an aggressive anti-corruption drive since coming to power, vowing to pursue high-flying “tigers” as well as lowly “flies.”
Zhou is the most senior official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the Communists came to power in 1949. He was in charge of domestic security and a member of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee — the pinnacle of power in the country — when he retired last year.
Zhou is also being investigated for violating party discipline, the sources said. They did not say what the specific allegations were.
In ordering the investigation, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Standing Committee will not be investigated after retirement.
Xi has gone after several of Zhou’s men, including Jiang Jiemin (蔣潔敏), who was the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until September this year, when state media said he was put under investigation for “serious discipline violations.”
Zhou was a patron of the once high-flying politician and former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來), who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power — the worst political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Zhou retired as domestic security tsar and from the standing committee during a sweeping leadership reshuffle last year. During his five-year watch, government spending on domestic security exceeded the defense budget.