China sacks former aide to retired domestic security chief

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A former aide to China's retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang has been sacked for suspected corruption, state media said on Thursday, the latest move against people close to Zhou who is himself subject of a graft investigation.

The ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog said on Sunday that the former aide, Li Chongxi, was being investigated for corruption.

On Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said Li had been removed from his post as head of an advisory body to the legislature in the southwestern province of Sichuan "for suspected severe violations of discipline", a euphemism for corruption.

"Authorities are investigating his case according to procedure," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the Communist Party's powerful Organisation Department.

It provided no further details and it was not possible to reach Li for comment.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning that the problem is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival and vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Zhou, who sources have told Reuters has been put under virtual house arrest, was party boss of Sichuan from 1999-2002, and it became one of his powerbases.

During Zhou's tenure in Sichuan, Li was promoted to a deputy provincial party boss and head of the province's anti-graft body, according to his official biography.

Two other senior Sichuan officials are being investigated, including Li Chuncheng, another former deputy Sichuan party chief.

Several of Zhou's political allies have been taken into custody and questioned for corruption, including former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until September.

In a separate case, Xinhua said a senior official in the southern province of Hunan had been sacked and expelled from the party for his role in an election bribery scandal.

More than 500 lawmakers in Hunan's Hengyang city resigned last month after being implicated in the scandal.

Xinhua said Tong Mingqian was fired as deputy head of Hunan's advisory body to parliament "for dereliction of duty which caused major electoral fraud", and will be prosecuted.

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