BEIJING - In a move calculated to show President Xi Jinping's resolve not to let precedent stand in the way of fighting graft, China's leadership brought corruption charges against a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee on Friday.
Zhou Yongkang, who headed China's security apparatus under ex-President Hu Jintao, was indicted on charges of bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets. Never before under Communist Party rule has someone of Zhou's stature been brought to heel in such a way.
Zhou is expected to stand trial in Tianjin as early as this year and could face life imprisonment or worse. How much access foreign media will get to the courtroom remains to be seen.
Preparations for the indictment appear to go back to at least December, when Xi replaced Tianjin party secretary Sun Chunlan with Huang Xingguo, said to be close to the president. The city's public security bureau also underwent a personnel reshuffle. These steps seem to have been meant to root out any influence that Zhou might retain there.
The recent death of Gen. Xu Caihou, once the top uniformed member of the People's Liberation Army, also seems to have affected the timing of the charges against Zhou. Xi's campaign against corruption, by which he has amassed considerable political clout, has bagged a number of high-profile "tigers," starting with Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai in 2013. Xu fell last year, along with Zhou, and the timing of his trial had been a matter of speculation until he died of bladder cancer last month. Zhou's indictment seems meant to keep the fight against corruption in the public eye.
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