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Wednesday, Oct 15, 2014

Asia

China likely to expel disgraced security chief from party: Sources

Reuters | Wednesday, Oct 15, 2014

BEIJING - China's disgraced former domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, looks set to be expelled from the ruling Communist Party at a key meeting next week, sources said, possibly paving the way for his formal prosecution.

Zhou is the most senior party member to have been targeted in a corruption probe since the Communists swept to power in 1949, and President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a cornerstone of his administration.

At a four-day party plenum beginning on Monday in Beijing, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, its main anti-graft body, will present its findings in a report on Zhou, said three sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The Central Committee is expected to approve (a proposal to) expel Zhou for grave violations of party discipline and decide whether to turn him over for prosecution," one source with leadership ties told Reuters.

The source added that the judicial process could be lengthy. "If the Central Committee votes to prosecute Zhou, the process will drag out due to a lack of (judicial) manpower and the complexity of the case."

The Central Committee is the largest of the party's elite decision-making bodies, made up of some 200 members who can vote and around 170 alternate members who do not have a vote.

The party announced in July that Zhou was being investigated by its anti-corruption watchdog for suspected "serious disciplinary violations", the usual euphemism for graft, although it could also imply other wrongdoing.

The move followed months of speculation about his fate.

It has not been possible to reach Zhou for comment on any of the allegations against him.

Zhou, 71, was the security tsar within the Politburo Standing Committee, China's apex of power, for five years until he retired in 2012.

WEIGHING UP THE RISKS

For Xi, taking on such a senior figure appears to be a calculated risk. The public move against Zhou is the pinnacle of a campaign to bring down "tigers" and "flies", or corrupt officials of senior and low rank.

By breaking an unwritten rule that members of the Standing Committee would not come under scrutiny after retirement, Xi could antagonise other party elders who fear that they and their families could be next if the crackdown does not ease off after Zhou's investigation, political analysts said.

However, sources told Reuters that two influential former Chinese leaders, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, gave their consent for Xi to investigate Zhou.

Also, unlike Bo Xilai, a charismatic ally of Zhou's who was felled from his position as Chongqing party chief in 2012 in another corruption scandal, Zhou has little public sympathy, and many of his supporters in the party have already been removed.

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