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China Probes Former Zhou Yongkang Secretary Ji Wenlin

China is probing a one-time aide to Zhou Yongkang for discipline violations, the latest official to be ensnared by corruption investigations surrounding the retired Politburo Standing Committee member.

Ji Wenlin, vice governor of southern China’s Hainan province, is under investigation for alleged “serious violations of discipline and laws,” the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said yesterday on its website. There were no other details in the statement, released two weeks before the annual meeting of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, begins on March 5.

The announcement means at least five people with ties to Zhou are now under party investigation over graft allegations, and follows reports that the country’s former security chief is himself being targeted. The probe of Zhou is in its “final stage,” the South China Morning Post reported Jan. 29, citing two unidentified people who received the information.

Any lag in prosecuting Zhou may reflect divisions between President Xi Jinping, who started an anti-corruption campaign when he came to power more than a year ago, and other party factions, according to Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

“We expect that there will be people pleading on his behalf because there is speculation that if Zhou Yongkang can be prosecuted, then there will be others,” Cheng said by phone. “This is why Xi Jinping can certainly expect a lot of resistance.”

Standing Committee

Ji, 47, was Zhou’s deputy secretary at the Ministry of Public Security in 2003 and became his secretary in 2005, according to a report in the party’s People’s Daily newspaper posted on the website of the official Xinhua News Agency in 2009.

Other officials with links to Zhou to have been put under investigation include a former deputy public security minister, two former Sichuan province officials, and the former head of China’s state-owned assets watchdog, who is also the ex-chairman of PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest traded company.

President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has targeted the military, provincial officials, and state-owned enterprises. Police have also been urged to crack down on prostitution and drugs after a raid this month targeted the sex trade in the southern manufacturing city of Dongguan. Police have arrested 501 suspects related to the sex industry since the Dongguan action, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

Zhu Zuoli, the vice chairman of the Shaanxi Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body, is under party investigation on suspicion of severe discipline violation, a statement posted on the party’s discipline inspection commission said today.

Chinese investigators have questioned more than a dozen senior officials as part of a graft probe of Zhou, Reuters reported last month, citing three people with ties to the leadership. Zhou, who also served as public security minister from late 2002 until 2007, has been put under virtual house arrest at a villa in the city of Tianjin, Reuters reported, citing two of the people.

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