Communist Party paper brands China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang a traitor

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

BEIJING (AFP) - China's top Communist Party mouthpiece has branded the country's former security czar, now being investigated for corruption, as a "traitor", likening him to several past turncoats who were all executed.

"There is not much difference between Zhou Yongkang's actions and those of 'traitors' during the Party's history," the People's Daily wrote in an article posted on its verified WeChat account, a popular messaging service and social network.

The newspaper cited the cases of three senior military officers who spied for self-governing Taiwan - which Beijing considers a breakaway province - giving the island's government information about mainland missile deployments in the 1990s. All three - Liu Liankun, Liu Guangzhi and Guo Wanjun - were executed.

The People's Daily also referenced the case of Gu Shunzhang, a Communist Party security officer in the 1920s who was arrested and defected to the then ruling Nationalist Party. He gave it intelligence on Communist activities before he attempted to establish an opposition party and was executed by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Zhou - who retired from China's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in 2012 - has been arrested and is being investigated on a barrage of charges including bribe-taking and "leaking state secrets", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The case makes Zhou the most senior Communist Party official to face prosecution since the 1980s and is part of President Xi Jinping's wide-ranging anti-corruption drive that has vowed to take down both high-level "tigers" as well as low-level "flies".

But critics say Mr Xi's campaign smacks of a power grab and that the Communist Party has failed to introduce systemic reforms to prevent graft, such as public disclosure of assets.

While leaking state secrets carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, Zhou could be executed for corruption.

Alongside the article, the People's Daily ran a caricature of Zhou depicting him as part man, part tiger with paws and fangs, and a noose around his neck.