Hainan deputy governor Tan Li, who has close ties to the family of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, has been placed under internal investigation by the Communist Party, amid a widening graft probe targeting retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang.
Tan is suspected of "severely violating laws and discipline", according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's announcement yesterday.
He is the second Hainan deputy governor to come under investigation. Last week, Ji Wenlin , who was once Zhou's personal secretary, was expelled from the party for corruption and adultery. Ji is now facing prosecution for graft.
Tan is one of many senior cadres who may have received money from convicted Sichuan tycoon Liu Han, who himself was connected to Zhou, the South China Morning Post reported in April.
The Post reported then, citing sources, that investigators in Liu's case had discovered that a senior Hainan official previously working in Sichuan had received about one million yuan (HK$1.25 million) in gifts from Liu, including rare artefacts and cash for his daughter's wedding.
Liu was convicted on charges of leading a gang on a crime spree, and was sentenced to death in May. In June, Liu lodged an appeal.
Tan, 58 and a Chongqing native, started his career in Sichuan and rose up the ranks in Guangan and Mianyang cities, where he served as party chief between 2001 and 2009. He was then transferred to Hainan and became a deputy governor and member of the provincial party standing committee in 2010.
Two sources in Sichuan said Tan was close to Deng's family.
One of the sources said Tan's mother was a family assistant to the late paramount leader.
Tan was appointed party chief of Guangan, Deng's hometown, in 2001. During his four years in office, he organised the memorial marking the centenary of Deng's birth, the rebuilding of Deng's former residence and the establishment of an ecological preservation area around it.
After the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Tan, then party chief of Mianyang, was given the sarcastic nickname of "Tan Xiaoxiao", meaning "Tan smile smile", by internet users because he was seen with a big smile after the catastrophe. Local media reported that his promotion to the Hainan post was due to his outstanding work on earthquake relief and reconstruction.