Beijing Begins Apparent Corruption Probe Into High-Level Official

Jul 29, 2014
Originally published on July 29, 2014 7:31 pm

China has begun investigations into one of the country's senior politicians. Zhou Yongkang was a former domestic security chief, and he's suspected of "serious disciplinary violations" — a phrase which usually stands for corruption.

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China has announced it will investigate its former security czar, apparently for corruption. This could be the highest level bust for graft in 60 years of communist rule. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: State television's nightly news tersely announced that Zhou Yongkang is being investigated for violating the party's rules. In such cases, a criminal prosecution usually follows. Until his retirement in 2012, Zhou was nominally the ninth most powerful man in China. His investigation would appear to be a watershed moment because for centuries, China's rulers have largely been above the law. But Beijing University political scientist Zhang Jian cautions that Communist Party boss Xi Jinping can't rewrite all the rules with his anti-graft drive even if he wants to.

JIAN ZHANG: I don't think that this could really single-handedly change the tradition, but Xi Jinping tried to play with that concept to establish a strong man image for himself.

KUHN: Xi's anti-corruption drive has neared 25,000 officials the first half of this year, including the countries former top-ranked military official. They also include many of Zhou Yongkang's relatives, some of whom have reportedly amassed vast fortunes. This has created expectations that Zhou himself would fall. And Xi Jinping has pledged to take down corrupt officials regardless of their rank. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.