BEIJING (AFP) - Three senior Chinese officials - including a former top banking regulator - have been expelled from the ruling Communist Party for alleged corruption and placed under criminal investigation, the country's graft watchdog said on Monday (Jan 24).
The expulsions come days after Chinese authorities vowed "no mercy" in their ongoing anti-corruption campaign, which has brought down high-flying politicians and influential tycoons, ahead of a key political meeting that could secure President Xi Jinping a third term.
Critics argue China's anti-corruption campaign - which Beijing says has already netted more than a million officials - has served as a way to remove political enemies since Mr Xi came to power in 2013.
Cai Esheng, former vice-chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, as well as former supreme court official Meng Xiang and former deputy director of the national food administration Xu Ming have all been expelled for "serious violation of discipline and laws", the party's top enforcement body said in three separate statements Monday.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said all three men were suspected of accepting bribes and "illegally receiving assets of massive value" as well as using their positions to help others further their personal interests.
The officials allegedly accepted inappropriately lavish banquets and violated the party's principles, the commission added.
The commission accused Cai in particular of "complete political degeneration", "severely disrupting the order of the financial market" and engaging in "transactions of money and sex".
All three men's cases have been transferred to public prosecutors, the commission said - usually a sign of impending criminal charges.
The commission last week warned it would show "no mercy" against corruption within the ruling party, promising to continue its anti-graft crackdown ahead of October's 20th party congress, where Mr Xi is widely expected to be handed a third term in office.
Those convicted of corruption can be stripped of their wealth and party membership, and face a lifetime behind bars or even death.