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Published: Monday February 24, 2014 MYT 4:40:03 PM
Updated: Monday February 24, 2014 MYT 4:40:03 PM

China sacks vice police chief with connections to Zhou Yongkang

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Adrian Bradshaw/Pool

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Adrian Bradshaw/Pool

BEIJING (Reuters) - China formally sacked former vice minister of public security Li Dongsheng, state media announced on Monday, only a day after news that China's premier had unveiled more measures to tackle corruption.

Li Dongsheng had been suspended for suspected serious discipline violations last December, a brief statement issued by Xinhua said, giving no further details.

The term "serious discipline violations" normally refers to corruption, and the news comes as speculation intensifies about the country's former domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang.

Zhou, one of the most powerful politicians of the last decade, has been put under virtual house arrest while the ruling Communist Party investigates accusations of corruption against him.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning that the problem is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival.

The Chinese government will decentralise authority, be more transparent and adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude to corruption this year as it deepens its fight against graft, reported state media on Sunday, citing Premier Li Keqiang.

The latest measures were laid out in a speech by Li Keqiang on February 11, in a meeting on tackling corruption, but only published by state news agency Xinhua late on Sunday.

Li Keqiang criticised the over-concentration of power by the central government and urged the institution of an open government "as the most effective way to accept supervision".

"When the government controls too much, directly intervenes in micro-economic activities, it not only influences the ability of the market to play a decisive role in the allocation of resources, it also increases transaction costs and makes it easy for corruption to breed," he said.

Vice police chief Li Dongsheng's sacking comes days after the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog announced that it was investigating Ji Wenlin, another official who worked for Zhou during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sources told Reuters last month that investigators had questioned more than a dozen senior officials, including the country's top prosecutor, about their links to Zhou.

It is unclear if the government will actually put Zhou on trial and risk embarrassing revelations about China's elite becoming public, undermining confidence in the party.

Zhou was a patron of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power in the worst political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four led by the widow of former leader Mao Zedong at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Zhou retired in 2012. He was last seen at an alumni celebration at the China University of Petroleum on October 1.

(Reporting by Natalie Thomas and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)

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