With 'Big Tiger' caught, Chinese media can finally name its prey

With 'Big Tiger' caught, Chinese media can finally name its prey

BEIJING - "Big Tiger" is gone. "Master Kang" has disappeared.

The various euphemisms Chinese media have used to describe a once powerful domestic security tsar are no longer necessary, after the Communist Party announced on Tuesday that it had launched a corruption investigation into Zhou Yongkang.

Confirmation of what was long known has proved a kind of catharsis for journalists, who have had to strike a balance between publishing thinly veiled reports about the sensational case and sticking to China's censorship rules.

Although journalists have leeway to publish critical reports on crime, the environment and business practices, independent reporting on the activities of central government and Communist Party leaders is usually off limits.

That did not stop the bolder Chinese newspapers and magazines from reporting in some detail on Zhou and his allies, while the censors, in many cases, were happy to look away.

Newspapers and those using social media often got around restrictions by calling Zhou "Master Kang" - a popular brand of instant noodles that shares a character with his given name.

The "tiger" reference comes from President Xi Jinping, who has vowed to target lowly "flies" as well as high-ranking"tigers" in his sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

Such references are instantly recognisable to many readers in China, where internet users have proved adept at crafting their own nicknames and other shorthand to communicate what censors will not allow to be spelled out.

Zhou is by far the highest-profile leader to be ensnared in Xi's crackdown and the most senior Chinese official to be ousted in a graft scandal since the ruling Communist Party came to power in 1949.

Last seen at an alumni celebration at the China University of Petroleum on Oct. 1, he could not be reached for comment. It was not clear if he has a lawyer.

Dozens of Zhou allies have been implicated in the scandal in recent months, and several senior government officials were placed under formal investigation.

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