BEIJING (REUTERS) - Disgraced former Chinese domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang caused serious economic damage with his "meddling" in the province where he had his powerbase, an official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, in a rare public mention of his name.
The ruling Communist Party announced in July that Zhou, one of China's most powerful politicians of the last decade, was being probed for suspected "serious disciplinary violations", the usual euphemism for corruption, though it could also imply additional wrongdoing.
Since then, state media and the party have made little mention of progress into his case or provided any other details, though a deputy justice minister said earlier this month that the investigation could take a long time.
But in a brief report by the official Xinhua news agency, the head of the legal affairs committee in the southwestern province of Sichuan, where Zhou was once party chief and maintained his influence even after being promoted, gave a barebones account of some of the crimes Zhou is suspected of.
Speaking to police officers, Sichuan legal affairs committee party chief Liu Yushun said that Zhou had gotten his hands dirty in the province's internal affairs. "Fully recognise the serious damage and negative effect on the province's political ecology and economic order of Zhou Yongkang's meddling in Sichuan's affairs," Liu was quoted as saying.
While he did not provide details, Liu called on the police to "resolutely uphold the party's decision" on Zhou.
Zhou was last seen in public more than a year ago. It has not been possible to contact him for comment and it is unclear if he has a lawyer.
Several senior officials have been caught up in the probe into Zhou, some of them who had worked with him in Sichuan.
In September the party expelled from its ranks a former aide of Zhou's called Li Chongxi, who had headed an advisory body to Sichuan's provincial legislature, paving the way for his formal prosecution.
In May, a former Sichuan mining magnate connected to Zhou's eldest son was sentence to death after being found guilty of running a "mafia-style gang".
Zhou was party boss of Sichuan from 1999-2002 and later took the public security portfolio in the Politburo Standing Committee - China's apex of power - until he retired in 2012.