China's anti-graft campaign: The Fallen Tigers

Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, sits between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015. --
Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, sits between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

This story was first published on June 12 and was updated on July 21.

China announced this week it will prosecute a former senior aide to ex-president Hu Jintao after a probe found he had taken bribes and engaged in other corrupt behaviour, making him the latest top official to fall in a graft crackdown. 

Launched in 2012, President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign targets not only low-ranking officials, known as "flies", but also top officials or "tigers". Even those at the top echelons of the Communist Party and state apparatus, once seen as untouchable, are not immune.

Here are some of the "tigers" nabbed so far in the crackdown:


Ling Jihua, 59


Ling Jihua, former vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. PHOTO: REUTERS

- Former head of the Communist Party's General Office of the Central Committee and vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference; close aide of former President Hu Jintao

Once tipped for a spot in the politburo of the Communist Party, Ling found himself in the spotlight after the death of his son Ling Gu in a car crash in March 2012. Two young women, one nude and the other partly clothed, were seriously injured in the Ferrari crash. Despite a media blackout surrounding the crash, Internet users questioned how the son of a party official could afford a car reportedly worth around US$800,000.

Last December, a one-line report in the official People's Daily said Ling was dismissed from the United Front Work Department of the party's Central Committee and the party's anti-corruption watchdog had opened an investigation into him for "suspected serious disciplinary violations".

The official Xinhua news agency said on July 20 he has been expelled from the Communist Party and his case handed over to the judicial authorities.  Ling is accused of receiving sexual favours, illegally obtaining core state secrets and colluding with his wife to take bribes and seek gains for her business activities.

Zhou Yongkang, 72


Former Chinese security chief Zhou Yongkang at an opening session of the National People's Congress in 2012. PHOTO: AFP

- Former domestic security chief; former member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee; former Communist party chief of Sichuan province

Zhou was the biggest "tiger" snared so far in China's anti-graft campaign. He was one of the most powerful men in China until his retirement in November 2012, overseeing a vast internal security apparatus. In July 2014, the official Xinhua news agency reported that Zhou was suspected of "serious disciplinary violations", a phrase seen as a euphemism for corruption. He was the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the Gang of Four - a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong - were put on trial in 1980.

For months beforehand, more than 300 family members and allies of Zhou in his power bases in Sichuan and the state-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) were targeted by anti-graft authorities. The latter reportedly seized assets worth at least US$14.5 billion (S$19.5 billion) from family members and associates.

At a secret trial on June 11, Zhou was found guilty of bribery, leaking state secrets and abuse of power, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Xu Caihou, 71


Xu Caihou. PHOTO: AFP

- Former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission that oversees the 2-million strong People's Liberation Army (PLA)

Xu was the highest ranking PLA officer to be brought down for corruption. Xinhua reported in July 2014 that he seriously violated party discipline and was suspected of bribery. Investigators found that he took advantage of his post "to assist the promotion of certain people", and accepted bribes "personally and through his family members", the agency said, adding that "his case is serious and leaves vile impact".

As Xu was a military official, he received a court martial. Xinhua reported in October that he confessed to taking bribes to aid promotions. But before his corruption trial could start, he died of bladder cancer in March this year.

Wang Tianpu, 52


Wang Tianpu, vice chairman and president of China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The president of Sinopec Group, one of China's largest state-owned enterprises, was investigated for "serious disciplinary violations". Sinopec Group is the parent company of Asia's largest oil refiner Sinopec Corp. His alleged wrongdoing might stem from his connections to Zhou Yongkang, according to sources quoted in a report by the influential Caixin financial magazine. He allegedly gave favours to Zhou's son, Zhou Bin, over equipment sales, on top of using his power to award Sinopec contracts to his own family and relatives.

Jiang Jiemin, 59


Jiang Jiemin, chairman of PetroChina Company. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

- Former head of CNPC, China's top energy group

Jiang was the first official publicly linked to Zhou Yongkang. Prosecutors alleged that Jiang, while holding various positions at the oil company, amassed more than 14 million yuan (S$3.03 million) in illegal income and assets, according to a court statement carried by Xinhua. Entrusted by Zhou, Jiang allegedly influenced the awarding of projects for oil and gas exploration, gas turbine generators and natural gas supplies between 2004 and 2008, prosecutors said. They pointed to 14 instances where Jiang "solicited or illegally accepted money and goods either directly or through his wife", Xinhua said. Jiang admitted his guilt and asked for leniency at the trial. 

Guo Zhenggang, 45

- Former position: PLA Zhejiang deputy political commissar

The deputy political commissar in the eastern province of Zhejiang is being investigated on suspicion of "violating the law", according to the defence ministry. He is the son of Guo Boxiong who retired as vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission in 2012.

Yang Weize, 52

- Former Communist Party chief of Nanjing city; former party secretary of Wuxi city; former mayor of Suzhou city

Yang fell to China's anti-corruption watchdog in January 2015. Caixin magazine said the authorities received a tip accusing the 52-year-old of wrongdoing while in his previous posts in Wuxi and Suzhou cities. Caixin suggested that his case was linked to Zhou.

Wan Qingliang, 51

- Former party secretary of Guangzhou; former Guangzhou mayor

He was once regarded as a rising star in the Communist party and was the youngest person to serve as Guangzhou's mayor. But a brief party statement in June 2014 said: "Wan Qingliang used his position to seek benefits for others, extorted, received and gave a large amount of bribes... and many times visited private clubs," according to Xinhua. A state television series in December 2014 featured one of Wan's "undesirable work styles" as visiting luxurious clubhouses.

Zhang Kunsheng

- Former assistant foreign minister

Zhang was the first senior Chinese diplomat sacked and placed under investigation in January. He was "suspected of violating discipline", the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement. Local media reported that the investigation was suspected to be related to the downfall of Ling Jihua.

Zhang was the most senior of the country's four assistant foreign ministers, who rank below the vice-foreign ministers. He was in charge of the protocol department, which oversees diplomatic ceremonies.

SOURCE: THE STRAITS TIMES ARCHIVES, REUTERS, AFP, WALL STREET JOURNAL, ABC NEWS