China targets deputy police minister Li Dongsheng for corruption
Vice-minister of public security Li Dongsheng latest close associate of Zhou Yongkang to fall as part of widening nationwide investigation
Raymond Li, Keith Zhai and Mimi Lau
A deputy national police chief with close ties to former security tsar Zhou Yongkang has become the latest target in a widening corruption probe that has shaken the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party.
The party's Central Committee for Discipline Inspection announced last night that Li Dongsheng - one of nine vice-ministers responsible for domestic security in the country of 1.35 billion - was suspected of serious violations of party rules and state laws. The agency provided no details about the investigation.
Li, who ranked third in the security ministry, is the second member of the decision-making Central Committee to fall from grace as part of the massive investigation. Several close associates of Zhou's have already placed under investigation.
The announcement came amid a swirl of reports in recent days that the party leadership was preparing to announce an unprecedented corruption investigation into Zhou, who was one of China's most powerful politicians over the past decade.
"We can interpret this as a move to target someone higher up," said Sun Yat-sen University politics professor Xiao Bin. "It's like a skirmish to push the war from the periphery to the power centre."
The South China Morning Post reported in August that President Xi Jinping and other top party leaders had authorised an investigation into Zhou, who retired last year as a member of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee, as part of broad nationwide anti-corruption campaign.
Zhou associates targeted by graft watchdogs include Jiang Jiemin , who, as head of the regulator overseeing state-owned enterprises, was also a Central Committee member.
Despite lacking any previous law enforcement experience, Li was appointed vice-minister of public security in 2009. Zhou was at the time secretary of the party's Central Politics and Law Commission, which oversees the Ministry of Public Security.
Li spent 22 years working at China Central Television, eventually rising to deputy chief of the state broadcaster. He served as vice-minister of the party's propaganda department before securing the public security post.
A person close to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the country's top prosecuting body, said Li introduced Zhou to his current wife.
Li attended a party committee meeting within the ministry on December 16, which is believed to have been his last public appearance.
Zhang Lifan , a Beijing-based political analyst, said that Li's downfall signalled that the investigation was closing in on Zhou. He predicted that an announcement over Zhou's investigation could come sometime around Christmas.