10 things about China's ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang

China's former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang reacts as he attends the Hebei delegation discussion sessions at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing in this Oct 16, 2007 file ph
China's former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang reacts as he attends the Hebei delegation discussion sessions at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing in this Oct 16, 2007 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The stage is set for the trial of  a man who was, until recently, one of China's most powerful men.

Retired security czar  Zhou Yongkang, 72, has been  arrested and expelled  from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), state media announced on Dec 6, 2014, about five months after  a corruption probe was launched against him by the party. Experts say it is the end of the road for Mr Zhou who is likely to get a heavy punishment.

Here are 10 things about the man who rose from humble beginnings  to become one of China's  most feared men:

1. Mr Zhou was born in 1942 in Wuxi in  coastal Jiangsu province to a father who caught eels and a mother who raised silkworms.

2. The eldest of three sons, he  left home for Beijing in 1961 at age  19 to study geophysics. He graduated from the Beijing Petroleum Institute in 1966.

3. In 1964 at age 22, he joined the CCP  on the eve of the Cultural Revolution while studying at the Beijing Petroleum Institute.

4. Mr Zhou's career began in the 1970s when he started work as an oil field technician at the Liaohe Oil Field in north-eastern China, home to the country's third-largest oil field. Over the next three decades, he rose steadily through the ranks in the  state-controlled oil sector and by 1997, he was the general manager of  China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the country's largest energy firm.

5. He had a brief stint helming the land and resources ministry before becoming party chief of  south-western Sichuan,  one of China's most populous provinces, in 1999.

 6. In 2002, Mr Zhou  was appointed Minister of Public Security and in 2007, he joined the Politburo Standing Committee, the CCP's  top echelon, and assumed control of the body overseeing the police, courts and intelligence agents.

7. Known for his political savviness and described as a decisive leader, Mr Zhou rose through the ranks with the support of two powerful patrons - former president Jiang Zemin and former vice-president Zeng Qinghong. But some analysts say that Mr Zhou was a power centre unto himself as well, parlaying his powerful grip on resources and finances in the domestic security apparatus to build a network of proteges and allies eager to establish themselves at the top of the party.

8. He  retired from the Politburo Standing Committee  in 2012.

9. In July, Mr Zhou became the first retired Politburo Standing Committee member to be investigated for graft.  He faces a judicial probe for a slew of charges, including taking bribes, helping family members and cronies plunder government assets, and leaking official secrets.

10. Many  people, however, believe  the real reason for the probe is his  close ties with ousted Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in September last year. During the probe  into Bo's wrongdoings, allegations had surfaced that the two men plotted a coup against President  Xi Jinping. They were even alleged to have  bugged the phones of top leaders, including then President Hu Jintao.