Beijing, July 29 (IANS/EFE) The Communist Party of China (CPC) Tuesday announced a probe into allegations of grave violations of discipline against former public security minister Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranking official to be investigated in decades.

The announcement was made in a brief statement published by Xinhua, using euphemisms the CPC normally employs to refer to corruption offences.

Zhou was minister of public security between 2002 and 2007 and a member of the CPC's central committee between 2007-2012, the elite group in charge of the country's most important decisions, integrated at the time by nine members, including the president and the prime minister.

The statement does not reveal which laws have been breached by the 71-year-old former security tsar whose investigation has been the subject of much speculation.

In July last year, legal authorities launched a criminal investigation against four officials close to Zhou.

Among them were Yu Gang and Ji Wenlin, who had been the ex-politician's personal secretaries, and Tan Hong, one of Zhou's security guards. All three face bribery charges.

Authorities had earlier opened a probe against five officials close to Zhou, such as Li Chongxi, former chair of Sichuan province's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference; Li Dongsheng, former vice minister of public security and Jiang Jiemin, former head of the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Zhou's eldest son, 41-year-old Zhou Bin, was reported arrested last month and faces possible bribery charges, although this investigation has not been confirmed officially.

Zhou has not been seen in public recently although he still is, at least technically, a member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, second only to the CPC's central committee, and as such was expected to attend the annual sessions of the National People's Congress last March.

For some time now, several unofficial publications have indicated that Zhou would be the next target of the extensive anti-corruption campaign launched by the Chinese government since the new leadership assumed power in 2013.

China's new leadership pledged to fight corruption among tigers and flies, regardless of the position of the suspect.



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