China probes three allies of former security chief
Beijing (AFP) July 14, 2014 -
Three prominent allies of China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang are under investigation for corruption, state prosecutors said Monday, as the noose appears to tighten around one of the country's most powerful men.
China's top prosecutor's office announced bribery probes into former vice minister of public security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, formerly a top regulator of state-owned enterprises, on its website.
It is the latest sign that Zhou, until 2012 a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful body, is being targeted in a corruption investigation.
Also under investigation for taking bribes is Wang Yongchun, formerly a senior manager at China's biggest oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation, the prosecutor's office said in a statement without giving details.
Zhou, who amassed huge power before his retirement from the Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012, has not been seen in public for months.
He had extensive connections in the state-run oil industry and the public security apparatus which he headed until his retirement. Both sectors have been targeted for investigation by the ruling Communist Party.
Several reports have cited sources close to Chinese leaders as saying that Zhou has also been targeted, though there has so far been no public confirmation.
If the investigation into Zhou is confirmed, it would be the first time in decades that such a high-ranking figure has been targeted in a formal inquiry.
President Xi Jinping has vowed to crackdown on endemic graft but critics say he is unlikely to succeed without more fundamental reforms such as greater press freedoms and and independent courts.
The government has also stifled an independent anti-corruption movement, jailing about 10 activists who had been involved in small-scale protests calling for government officials to disclose their financial assets.
China on Monday slammed a remark by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott praising Japanese military personnel during World War II, while state-run media said Australia was once "roamed by rascals".
China's Global Times daily, linked to the ruling Communist party, said Australia was in no position to criticise China's human rights record in part because it "used to be a place roamed by rascals and outlaws from Europe".
The editorial came after Abbott recalled a submarine attack by Japanese forces on the city of Sydney, saying: "we admired the skill and the sense of honour that they brought to their task although we disagreed with what they did."
China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement posted online that if reports of Abbott's remarks were true, "no one with a conscience could agree with them".
Australia and Japan have recently stepped-up its military and economic ties, amid a tense territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week became the first Japanese leader to address Australia's parliament as the countries signed free trade and security deals, vowing to share defence technology.
The Global Times dismissed Abbott's remarks as an "outrage," and said that Australia should drop its critical stance on human rights abuses in China.
"Australia's history is not short of records of human rights infringement on the Aboriginal population," said the English-language editorial at the weekend.
The paper's Chinese-language version referred to Australia's "filthy record of violating the human rights of Aboriginals".
The tabloid followed up on Monday with an article penned by former Australian diplomat Gregory Clark criticising what he sees as Australia and Japan teaming up against China.
"Japan and Australia are the odd couple in Asia," Clark wrote. "Canberra uses its long-standing close alliance with the US to justify the anti-China aspects of its pro-US and pro-Japan policies."
The weekend editorial also took Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to task for comments made last week and seen as provocative.
In an interview with Fairfax Media, Bishop said: "China doesn't respect weakness" and Australia must "hope for the best and manage for the worst" in its relations with China.
"Bishop's verbal provocation made her look more like one of the often pointless 'angry youths' found in the Chinese cyber sphere than a diplomat," the Global Times said.
The Chinese-language editorial was in places more strongly worded, referring to Bishop as an "idiot".
She was already on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when she visited Beijing in December. He delivered a stern rebuke after Canberra criticised China's declaration of an air defence zone in the East China Sea.
China and Australia were allies in the World War II fight against Japan, when invading forces killed millions of Chinese troops and civilians.