The authorities in Xinjiang investigated 355 Communist Party cadres for breaches of party political discipline last year, a six-fold increase over 2013, in a greater attempt to root out disloyal members. The news came days after 15 party officials in Tibet were said to have been punished for joining independence groups and providing intelligence to the Dalai Lama in "activities deemed a threat to national security". The probes in Xinjiang were a result of stepped-up efforts to uncover breaches of party discipline in the region last year, state-run Legal Daily reported, citing the region's discipline regulators. The 355 cadres investigated were involved in 323 cases. Among them, 333 received unspecified punishments, it said. An office to specifically inspect issues of political discipline was set up last year to target party leaders and members, it said. President Xi Jinping has said that wavering on core issues, openly opposing the party line, and secretly working against central government decisions constitute violations. Among those taken in were 32 officials for alleged graft linked to pilgrimages by Muslims to Mecca. They included the former director of the pilgrimage affairs office under the Xinjiang Ethnic Affairs Committee, as well as the head of Kizilsu prefecture's public security bureau, and the mayor of its biggest city, Artux. Jiang Zhaoyong, a Beijing-based ethnic affairs expert, said "political" - as opposed to corruption - was the key word. "It is not clear what the rest of the 300-odd officials have done, but it is clear that in one way or another they threatened the safety of the party," he said. James Leibold, an ethnic studies scholar at Australia's La Trobe University, said the expanded probe was a sign from Xi that even party members would be thoroughly examined in the fight against what the party called religious extremists or separatists.