Zhou Yongkang , the former security tsar and Politburo Standing Committee member, is likely to face a suspended death sentence, a tougher penalty than the one meted out to disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , analysts say. Announcing yesterday that Zhou had been expelled from the Communist Party and would face prosecution, Xinhua listed six key areas in which he had violated "party and organisational discipline and secrecy". One of those claims was leaking state secrets, which Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said could pave the way for a closed trial. "In China, it's very difficult to define what's a state secret. As a former member of the party's Politburo Standing Committee, anything Zhou unwittingly told anyone around him could be a 'state secret'," Zhang said. He said the state secrets claim was just an excuse to depart from the open hearings of Bo's trial. Bo was sentenced to life in prison last year on charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power. "Bo's open hearing was not good because Bo's public image was not destroyed by it. If Zhou doesn't want to cooperate with the authorities, he could embarrass the central leadership," Zhang said. Chen Daoyin , from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the state secrets referred to in the statement could be "some internal discussions about an upcoming Politburo personnel reshuffle". "Zhou might have used his position to leak some information to officials and candidates, or even overseas media, to manipulate a reshuffle of the party leadership," Chen said. Zhang said a verdict against Zhou could result in anything ranging from a death sentence to a suspended death sentence. But Zhou's execution could not be ruled out given President Xi Jinping's "fearless political style". But other analysts said Zhou was likely to be given a suspended death sentence at most. "There has been an understanding in the leadership over the past few decades that the maximum punishment for corrupt senior officials is a death sentence with a few years' probation," Renmin University political science professor Zhang Ming said. Xinhua said the Politburo decided to hand over Zhou's case after hearing a report on violations uncovered by the party's anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection last December. Zhou is so far the most senior official to be brought down since Xi declared a nationwide anti-corruption drive two years ago. Xinhua said the investigations revealed that Zhou had abused his power to help relatives, mistresses and friends make huge business profits, resulting in serious losses of state-owned assets. It also accused Zhou of adultery with a number of women and of trading his power for sex and money. But Chen said: "I don't think the results of that investigation could indicate that Zhou is more evil than Bo or other disgraced senior officials. Those accusations could be applied to anyone involved in corruption. "The downfall of Zhou and his subordinates just proves that they are losers of power struggles in the party. The accusations of economic crimes and violations of party and moral principles are just excuses to bring them down." Zhang Ming said all of the senior officials to fall so far had grass-roots backgrounds, and no officials and entrepreneurs with a princeling background like Xi had been investigated. Zhang Lifan said he was disappointed that the accusations against Zhou did not reflect public complaints about Zhou's violent suppression of civil protests during his decade at the top.