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Former Zhou aide caught in graft net

AFP-JIJI

A longtime aide to Chinese political heavyweight Zhou Yongkang has been fired from his post and expelled from the ruling Communist Party for corruption, a party body said Wednesday.

The move is the latest sign that authorities are targeting Zhou, the former domestic security chief who amassed huge power before his retirement from the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012.

The former aide, Guo Yongxiang, committed “serious violations of discipline and the law” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on its website.

He is a former vice governor of the southwestern province of Sichuan, where Zhou was party chief from 1999 to 2002.

Guo also worked for 26 years in the oil industry, another power base of Zhou’s, as well as in China’s land resources ministry, which Zhou headed in the late 1990s.

Rumors have swirled for months that Zhou himself is being investigated for graft, although his name was not mentioned in reports on Guo’s expulsion in state-run media Wednesday.

If the investigation into Zhou is confirmed, it would mark the first time in decades that such a high-ranking figure has been targeted in a formal inquiry, a move that would send shock waves through China’s political elite.