Ex-Chinese security czar put under house arrest
SENDING tremors across China's political landscape, President Xi Jinping and other party leaders have authorised a corruption inquiry against the powerful former head of the domestic security apparatus, Mr Zhou Yongkang, according to sources
It is the first time since the founding of the People's Republic of China that an official who held such high office has been the focus of a formal corruption investigation.
Mr Zhou was once a member of the Communist Party's top rung of power, the Politburo Standing Committee, and even retired members of that body have always been spared such scrutiny.
The principal allegations against Mr Zhou emerged from investigations over the last year into accusations of abuse of power and corruption by officials and oil-company executives associated with him. Those inquiries have already encircled his son, Zhou Bin, and other family members, the sources said.
Mr Xi and other leaders agreed early this month to put the elder Zhou directly under formal investigation by the party's commission for rooting out corruption and abuses of power, the sources said.
He and his wife, Madam Jia Xiaoye, have since been held under constant guard.
"It's not like in the past few months, when he was being secretly investigated and more softly restricted," a source said. "Now, it's official."
Educated in oil-field exploration, Mr Zhou spent much of his career in the state oil industry and wielded considerable influence over the sector, which expanded rapidly at home and abroad, as demand for energy surged with China's booming economy.
Later, while a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, he oversaw the party's sprawling security apparatus, with control over the police, prosecutors, courts and the main intelligence service.
Mr Christopher Johnson, an expert on Chinese politics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: "On the one hand, this would be such a dramatic change from previous practice, and risks generating pushback. On the other hand, this is a guy who likes to send messages and who has been consistently defying longstanding regime rules of physics now for some time."