BEIJING - The movements of the eldest son of retired Chinese domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang have been restricted while he helps with a corruption investigation, three sources said, a case that could cause division within the ruling Communist Party.
If Zhou Yongkang, 71, one of China's most powerful politicians of the last decade, were directly implicated in the probe, he would be the most senior Chinese politician ensnared in a graft scandal since the Communists came to power in 1949.
"Zhou Yongkang is 100 per cent in trouble. The question is will he be put on trial or will he be dealt with internally by the party," Ho Pin, editor-in-chief of New York-based Mingjing News, said by telephone. Mingjing, a media and book publishing firm, has reported extensively on the scrutiny into Zhou since he retired last year.
One of the sources, who has ties to the leadership, said the investigation that Zhou Yongkang's son, Zhou Bin, is helping with was linked to a probe into Jiang Jiemin, until recently the top regulator of state-owned enterprises.
The official Xinhua news agency announced on September 1 that Jiang was being investigated for "serious discipline violations", shorthand generally used to describe graft.
Jiang was previously chairman of energy giant China National Petroleum Corp - Zhou Yongkang's power base - as well as one of its subsidiaries, oil-and-gas behemoth PetroChina.
ZHOU BIN RETURNED FROM OVERSEAS
The three sources told Reuters that Zhou Bin was under quasi-detention on the outskirts of Beijing so he could assist the party's anti-corruption watchdog with the investigation.
"Zhou Bin agreed to return from abroad for questioning by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection," said a second source, who has direct knowledge of the matter.
All three sources requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to foreign reporters about the politically sensitive matter.
Zhou junior and his family could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he had hired a lawyer. The cabinet spokesman's office, which doubles as the party's public affairs office, declined immediate comment.
The younger Zhou, who is married to a Chinese-American woman and is a US permanent resident, had been barred from leaving the country, the sources said. They said his movements had been restricted for up to six months.
It was unclear where he was staying or when he returned to China, but the questioning began around September.
Zhou Bin, in his 40s, has business interests in China's energy sector, Chinese media have reported.
"The investigation had to do with Jiang Jiemin," the first source said.
Jiang is among several former CNPC and PetroChina executives under investigation. Authorities have given no details on their alleged wrongdoing but the corruption probe is one of the biggest into China's massive state enterprise sector in years.