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China's ex-security chief charged with bribery, abuse of power - report

Zhou Yongkang, China's former security chief.
Feng Li | Getty Images

Chinese authorities have formally charged former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets, state media said on Friday, paving the way for a trial that underscores Beijing's commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels.

Zhou, 72, is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption. He is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949.

Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - China's apex of power - and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.

His case was transferred to a court in the northern city of Tianjin on Friday, state news agency Xinhua said.

No date was given for Zhou's trial, but state media said last month that China would hold an "open trial" in an attempt to show transparency.

Last year, China said it had arrested Zhou and expelled him from the ruling Communist Party, accusing him of crimes ranging from accepting bribes to leaking state secrets. It also said his case had been handed over to judicial authorities.

Retired legislators and lawyers have said many of the previous abuses to the rule of law in China can be attributed to Zhou, who expanded his role into one of the most powerful and controversial fiefdoms in the one-party government.

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It has not been possible to reach Zhou, who was last seen in public in October 2013, for comment.

Sources with ties to the Chinese leadership have previously told Reuters that Xi has been determined to bring down Zhou for allegedly plotting appointments to retain influence ahead of the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, when Xi took over the party.

Xi has made fighting pervasive graft a central theme of his administration and has promised to go after "tigers", or senior officials, as well as those of lower rank who are implicated in corruption.

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Zhou joined the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 while also heading the central Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a sprawling body that oversees law-and-order policy. The security apparatus he ran expanded during his watch and consumed a budget that exceeded the official figure for military spending.

He quickly earned the enmity of Chinese dissidents.

In ordering the investigation into Zhou, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Politburo Standing Committee would not come under such scrutiny after retirement.

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