Senior Chinese Official Falls under Scrutiny as Some Point to Larger Inquiry

( [email protected] ) Sep 03, 2013 04:13 AM EDT

The Chinese Communist Party announced this week that a senior official responsible for overseeing state-owned corporations was under investigation, according to The New York Times.

People with knowledge of that case and many others said that, according to senior officials, the inquiries were part of a larger corruption investigation encroaching on the retired chief of the domestic security apparatus.

The former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, stepped down last year from the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, after years as one of the most powerful and divisive figures in Chinese politics. The investigations swirling around him appear to be part of the boldest efforts yet by China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to consolidate his authority, convince officials he is serious about deterring corruption and extinguish Mr. Zhou’s lingering influence, reports The Times.

The senior official under scrutiny, Jiang Jiemin, the director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, “is suspected of grave violations of discipline and is currently under investigation,” said a brief statement issued by Xinhua, the main state news agency. The term “violations of discipline” almost invariably refers to corruption or abuses of power.

Mr. Jiang’s downfall appears to follow a pattern related to anticorruption inquiries against officials who rose in the footsteps of Mr. Zhou, 70, who worked at the China National Petroleum Corporation and in Sichuan, also the scene of an expanding corruption investigation. Four people with knowledge of the inquiries, each citing comments by senior officials, said those investigations were linked to a larger, secretive inquiry in which officials had detained or questioned a son and associates of Mr. Zhou, The Times reported.

“It makes logical sense that this is aimed at Zhou,” said Chen Ziming, a political commentator in Beijing in The Times. “It’s all too concentrated, all follows this same line to him. China National Petroleum Corporation and Sichuan are both places he worked. It’s a step by step process, questioning people associated with him, former secretaries and so on.”

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported Friday that Mr. Zhou was under investigation. Chinese webites that focus on news and rumors have also said that an investigation is under way.

No Politburo Standing Committee member - retired or sitting - has been investigated for economic crimes since the end of the Cultural Revolution nearly 40 years ago, according to The Post.

The four people who spoke to The Times — a former senior anticorruption investigator, a Chinese businessman with high-level connections, a political analyst with ties to senior officials and a businesswoman with family ties to Chinese elites — spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the risk of recriminations for discussing secretive political decisions, they reported.

“The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has established a case group to deal with Zhou Yongkang,” said the former anticorruption official, who cited a conversation in recent days with a central government security official.