China jails former security chief Zhou for life

BEIJING - China's former domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, was sentenced to life in jail on Thursday after being found guilty during a closed-door trial of bribery, leaking state secrets and abuse of power, state news agency Xinhua said.

Zhou, who was formally charged in April, was tried in the northern city of Tianjin on May 22, and admitted his guilt and decided not to appeal against the verdict, Xinhua added, in a verdict also read out on state television.

Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949. The decision to try Zhou underscores President Xi Jinping's pledge to fight corruption at the highest levels.

"I accept the prosecution's accusations, and the basic facts are clear; I admit my guilt and am penitent," Xinhua paraphrased Zhou as telling the court.

One source with the direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that Zhou, who used to be in charge of the police force, was being guarded by soldiers rather than police officers.

"He was cooperative during interrogations," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"His attitude was good." Zhou's alleged crimes took place over decades, including when he was deputy general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), party boss in southwestern Sichuan province, minister of public security and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, according to the initial indictment.

He has not been seen in public since October 2013. Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - China's apex of power - and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.

Sources with ties to the Chinese leadership have previously told Reuters that Xi has been determined to bring down Zhou for allegedly plotting appointments to retain influence ahead of the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, when Xi took over the party.

Zhou joined the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 while also heading the central Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a sprawling body that oversees law and order policy.

The security apparatus he ran expanded during his watch and consumed a budget that exceeded the official figure for military spending.

He quickly earned the enmity of Chinese dissidents.