China announces probe into former domestic security czar
BEIJING (CNN) — After months of intense political rumors, China's ruling Communist Party announced Tuesday an official probe into a retired senior leader for suspected "serious disciplinary violation."
Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security czar, was placed under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in accordance with Party regulations, state-run news agency Xinhua said in a one-line dispatch without elaborating.
Before stepping down in late 2012, Zhou, 71, was one of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body that effectively rules the country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Amid an intensifying anti-corruption campaign launched by President Xi Jinping, many political analysts and ordinary citizens have noted ties between an increasing number of disgraced officials and Zhou in recent months. Zhou himself had been rumored to be under house arrest before Tuesday's announcement.
State media have reported official anti-corruption probes into many of Zhou's family members as well as former associates in the domestic security apparatus, state oil industry and southwestern Sichuan province -- three places Zhou once ruled. If indicted, Zhou would become the highest-ranking official ever to face corruption charges in the history of the People's Republic.
The news on Zhou came on the heels of the downfall of several former high-ranking officials, including a retired top general of the 2 million-strong People's Liberation Army.
Gen. Xu Caihou, a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which runs the world's largest standing army, was expelled from the Communist Party and handed over to prosecutors after being found to have accepted bribes, Xinhua reported early this month. Xu was also a member of the Politburo before retiring in 2012.
State media have characterized Xu as a big "military tiger" caught in the massive anti-graft campaign spearheaded by Xi, who is also the commander-in-chief. Xi banned official extravagance -- from banquets to year-end gifts -- and vowed to target "tigers and flies" alike in his fight against corruption. He resolved to spare no one, regardless of position. CCTV recently touted the capture of 35 "tigers" since Xi took power less than two years ago.
Some 182,000 officials were disciplined in 2013, while courts nationwide tried 23,000 corruption cases, according to the Communist Party's disciplinary commission. State media have cited the trial and conviction last year of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai -- a protégé of Zhou -- as a prime example of Xi's determination to clean up the party, though Bo supporters called the case against him politically motivated.
CNN's Kevin Wang contributed to this report