The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has formally expelled six senior officials, including several former subordinates of retired security czar Zhou Yongkang, whose fate remains yet unknown.
The six are former military commander of the Tibet region Yang Jinshan, former public security vice-minister Li Dongsheng, former State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission head Jiang Jiemin, former vice-general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation Wang Yongchun, former Guangzhou Party chief Wan Qingliang and former Sichuan deputy party boss Li Chuncheng.
Mr Jiang, Mr Wang and both Mr Lis were implicated in the political downfall of Mr Zhou, 71, who became the first retired member of the apex Politburo Standing Committee to be placed under disciplinary investigations in July.
Mr Zhou is widely expected to be expelled at the CCP's fourth plenum that ended on Thursday after four days of meeting and handled over to face legal actions for graft and other charges.
Taking legal actions against him would be seen as a show of President Xi Jinping's resolve to deepen the rule of law, which is the theme at the fourth plenary session of the CCP's 300-plus Central Committee. It is the first time that a CCP plenum has focused on the rule of law.
The party is expected to issue an outcome document on Thursday listing the major decisions reached at the plenum.
The party’s internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), will hold its own fourth plenum on Saturday, Xinhua said, at which it is expected to take action against several disgraced officials including Mr Zhou.
Early Chinese media reports revealed that the party has decided to "improve a legal system with the constitutional rule as its nucleus and embodying Chinese socialist characteristics".
Observers say Mr Xi is seeking to beef up the rule of law to quell social discontent arising from unfair laws and also to use the law to sustain his anti-graft campaign, which has vowed to target both powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies”.
In Dec 2012, Sichuan's Mr Li was sacked, becoming the first protege of Mr Zhou to topple in a dragnet. Since then, more than 300 of Mr Zhou’s relatives and former subordinates in Sichuan province and the energy and security sectors were also targeted.
The sensational trial of fallen political star Bo Xilai last year where proceedings were aired live on a micro-blog could even be dwarfed if Beijing decides to go ahead with an open criminal trial for Mr Zhou – a scenario that is likely, experts had said.
The former Chongqing party chief’s political career imploded after the death of a British businessman, for which his wife was convicted of murder. Bo himself was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in September last year.