China’s political elite is said to be reeling after news that one of the country’s top political figures, former security chief Zhou Yongkang is being investigated for corruption.
The announcement confirms rumours about the powerful ex-minister who has not been seen in public for months.
Zhou (71) who retired in 2012 is by far the highest profile figure caught up in President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on graft.
Xi has made fighting corruption a central theme of his administration and has promised to go after ‘tigers’ – or senior officials – as well as those of lower rank who are implicated.
One source close to the leadership said Zhou has been accused of corruption involving family members and accepting bribes to promote officials.
But analysts also see Zhou’s case as another power struggle suggesting Xi has been determined to bring Zhou down for allegedly plotting appointments to retain influence ahead of the 18th Party Congress in November when Xi took over the party.
However among ordinary members of the Chinese public the move against Zhou was welcomed:
“Of course it is good news. Those corrupt officials, no matter how senior their titles are, they must be pulled down,” said retired taxi driver Yang Shangyi.
Architect Yang Hao added: “We feel that the new central leadership has the determination to fight against corruption and we have seen big moves in this regard. We are encouraged by that.”
During his five year tenure as security chief Zhou oversaw the police force, civilian intelligence apparatus and the judiciary. Under his watch government spending on domestic security exceeded the defence budget.