Hardline security czar
FROM the oil fields of frigid north-eastern China, the hulking Zhou Yongkang worked his way up to the elite Politburo Standing Committee.
Born in Jiangsu province near Shanghai in 1942, he spent years in the oil industry and related ministries, before being tasked to run the huge south-western province of Sichuan. He was named public-security minister in 2002 and then in 2007 took the law-and-order portfolio in the Politburo Standing Committee.
The central leadership was impressed by Mr Zhou's performance overseeing security, but activists had another view.
"Zhou must accept a great deal of responsibility for the complete lack of progress on legal issues over the past 10 or 20 years. Indeed, things went backwards," said dissident artist Ai Weiwei, detained without charge in April 2011 for 81 days.
But when Zhou stepped down along with most members of the standing committee at the 18th Party Congress last November, the position he occupied was downgraded.
His successor, Mr Meng Jianzhu, was only made a member of the Politburo, the 25-member body which reports to the Standing Committee.
Mr Zhou's links to Bo Xilai, who also sat on the party's Politburo and whose specta- cular trial on bribery and other charges ended last week, probably led to this reversal.
Bo said in secret testimony during his recent trial that he was obeying orders from a powerful party agency in charge of security when he took steps to cover up the flight of his police chief, Mr Wang Lijun, to a US consulate, according to a court observer.