Updated: 12/30/2013 15:30 | By Agence France-Presse

China holds ex-security chief's colleague over graft

A former close colleague of China's ex-chief of internal security Zhou Yongkang is under investigation for "law and discipline violations", authorities have announced, stepping up anti-corruption inquiries another notch.


China holds ex-security chief's colleague over graft

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC attends the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5, 2012

Li Chongxi, chairman of the Sichuan province Political Consultative Conference -- a debating chamber that is part of the Communist Party-controlled governmental structure -- is being probed for "suspected severe violation of discipline and the law", the ruling party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said.

The phrase is commonly used as a euphemism for corruption.

No further details were provided in the announcement Sunday.

Li, 62, was the chief secretary of Sichuan's party apparatus when Zhou was the Communist number one in the province from 1999 to 2002, according to the two officials' biographies carried on state-run news portals cpc.people.com.cn and xinhuanet.cn.

Li was promoted to be the vice party chief of the province in 2002, before he took other posts and then his current position, which is at the ministerial level, this year.

He has become at least the 18th official at vice-ministerial level or above to fall since a once-in-a-decade power transition in November last year that anointed Xi Jinping as the ruling party's general secretary.

Among the 18 at least five are believed to have been proteges of Zhou, who is a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee and one of China's strongest politicians of the past decade.

The New York Times earlier this month cited "sources with elite political ties" as saying that Xi has given the go-ahead for a corruption investigation into Zhou himself. 

It would be the first time in decades that such a high-ranking figure has been targeted in a formal inquiry, which would unmistakably send shockwaves through China's elite.

Xi, who became head of the state in March, has warned that corruption could destroy the party and threatened to crack down on high-ranking officials, described as "tigers", along with low-level "flies".

High-profile cases that have emerged over the past year include the sacking of Jiang Jiemin, head of China's state-owned assets watchdog, and Li Dongsheng, formerly a vice minister of public security.

But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to increase transparency to help fight endemic graft.

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