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China’s Corruption Crackdown Takes Down Former Security Czar

Former Politburo Standing Committee member, Zhou Yongkang
Former Politburo Standing Committee member, Zhou YongkangPhotograph by Anindito Mukherjee/EPA

On Tuesday, China’s state-run media announced that the man formerly in command of the country’s sprawling internal security apparatus was now himself in detention. Zhou Yongkang—a 71-year-old former member of the Politburo Standing Committee and one of the most powerful nine men in China until 2012—is now under investigation for “serious disciplinary violation.” He is the highest-ranking target of President Xi Jinping’s far-reaching anticorruption drive and the first former Politburo member to be purged from the party in decades.

The one-paragraph Xinhua announcement of Zhou’s detention was, in fact, rather anticlimatic, as he disappeared from public view last fall and was widely presumed to be under house arrest. Dozens of his former aides, political cronies, and relatives have already been detained and interrogated in an apparent effort to dismantle the former security czar’s powerful political network. The terse official announcement omitted “comrade” from his title, indicating that as far as China’s leadership is concerned, Zhou is already persona non grata.