Hebei party chief latest graft suspect

Mr Zhou Benshun worked under Zhou Yongkang for five years before becoming party chief in Hebei.
Mr Zhou Benshun worked under Zhou Yongkang for five years before becoming party chief in Hebei.PHOTO: REUTERS

Former senior associate of jailed one-time security czar under investigation, govt says

BEIJING • A former senior associate of China's jailed one-time security chief Zhou Yongkang is being investigated for suspected corruption, the latest official connected with Zhou to come under suspicion.

In a brief statement, the ruling Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog said that Mr Zhou Ben- shun was suspected of "serious breaches of discipline and the law", a euphemism for corruption.

It provided no other details, and it was not possible to reach the official for comment.

Mr Zhou Benshun, who is not related to Zhou Yongkang, is currently the top official in the northern province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and is the country's most important steel producer.

The Hebei city of Zhangjiakou is also bidding, along with Beijing, for the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and Mr Zhou Benshun has attended meetings of the bid committee. The bid committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Zhou Benshun worked for five years under Zhou Yongkang in the Central Politics and Law Commission as its secretary-general. He was moved to the party chief position in Hebei in 2013.

Since assuming power in late 2012, President Xi Jinping, who doubles as party and military chief, has pursued a relentless campaign against deep-rooted corruption, vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

The biggest "tiger" snared so far is Zhou Yongkang, 72, who the government said last month had been jailed for life for bribery, leaking state secrets and abusing power following a closed-door trial in May.

Many of Zhou Yongkang's political allies, former aides or colleagues, including Jiang Jiemin, who had been the top regulator of state-owned enterprises, have also been felled in the crackdown.

Hebei has been at the front of efforts to control Beijing's notorious smog. In March, Mr Zhou Benshun said his province was paying "a huge price" for the country's war on pollution. Tougher anti-pollution measures and easing demand slowed growth in Hebei to 6.5 per cent last year from 7.7 per cent in the previous year.

Hebei churns out nearly a quarter of China's steel, but it is now bearing the brunt of a campaign aimed at easing dependence on heavy, polluting industries.

It has struggled to find alternative sources of economic growth and hopes a new state plan aimed at integrating the province's economy with the cities of Beijing and Tianjin will help reduce its reliance on steel and coal.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'Hebei party chief latest graft suspect'. Print Edition | Subscribe