Zhou Yongkang

Former top leader Zhou Yongkang returns to limelight amid corruption speculation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 8:44am

A former member of the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee is back in the limelight for the first time since retiring in November.

State media recently reported on Zhou Yongkang's not-so-recent trip to his alma mater earlier this year - publicity that analysts suspect was aimed at dispelling speculation of corruption surrounding the nation's former security tsar.

Several of Zhou's former aides or close associates have been implicated in corruption or placed under Communist Party disciplinary investigation amid a stepped-up graft crackdown launched by the new administration under the leadership of President Xi Jinping .

Escorted by top officials in Jiangsu, including party secretary Luo Zhijun and Governor Li Xueyong, Zhou visited the Suzhou Middle School on April 29.

However, the trip was not widely known until recently, when media outlets began reporting on it, citing a news release dated May 27 on the school's official website. Now 70, Zhou entered the elite school in 1958.

Speculation about whether Zhou would be implicated for graft intensified last week when a former vice-governor of Sichuan , Guo Yongxiang , was put under investigation by party disciplinary officials for "serious violations of party discipline" - a common euphemism for corruption.

Guo used to be one of Zhou's top aides.

Before that, Li Chuncheng , a former deputy party secretary of Sichuan and another close associate of Zhou, became the first senior official to fall from grace under the new leadership's intensified anti-corruption push. Zhou was Sichuan's party chief from 1999 to 2002.

And in January, Wu Yongwen , a former deputy head of the Hubei People's Congress who was also closely linked to Zhou, was taken away by party disciplinary inspectors.

Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, said the Communist Party appears to be maintaining a status quo, dating back to the late 1970s, in which no member of its Standing Committee has been prosecuted.

Cheng said that it is common for the Communist Party to carefully arrange for officials to make public appearances to dispel rumours.

On Friday, the official Anhui Daily ran a page-long feature written by former vice premier Hui Liangyu about his penchant for the famed Yellow Mountain range in Anhui. The article came as online allegations of corruption were being directed at him.