Zhou Yongkang, one of the most powerful politicians in China for the past ten years, is the target of an investigation into corruption.
The move against Zhou — reported Sunday by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post — ‘could send even bigger political shockwaves through Beijing than the trial of Bo Xilai, who was widely considered a key Zhou ally,’ the paper said.
Zhou, 70, was a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, China’s highest governing body, from 2007 to 2012. Beforel he retired last year, Zhou also ran China’s state security agency.
‘No Politburo Standing Committee member — retired or sitting — has been investigated for economic crimes since the end of the Cultural Revolution nearly 40 years ago,’ the South China Morning Post said.
President Xi Jinping and his administration are reportedly using the case ‘to galvanize the anti-graft campaign,’ the paper said.
Zhou ranks above Bo Xilai, the Politburo member who was put on trial in August for graft.
The South China Morning Post said the investigation of Zhou will focus on his time as governor of Sichuan and while he ran CNPC — the China National Petroleum Corporation — the top state-controlled oil and gas company.
Jiang Jiemin, the chairman of PetroChina, the biggest subsiairy of CNPC, is also under investigation, along with three senior executives of PetroChina.
Xinhua also reported last week that Wang Yongchun, a CNPC deputy general manager, was being investigated for ‘gross violation of party discipline,’ usually a reference to graft.
In Zhou’s case, top party leaders reportedly decided to go ahead with an investigation after disclosures about the vast wealth amassed by Zhou’s family.
President Xi personally ordered officials in charge of the case to ‘get to the bottom of it,’ the South China Morning Post said.
Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.