China says disgraced security chief not relevant to top party meeting

Former China's Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Communist Party made no mention of the fate of China's powerful domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang at a recent key meeting because he is no longer part of the central leadership, a senior party official said on Thursday. Zhou, 71, 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. The absence of news about the investigation into Zhou at last week's closed-door meeting of the ruling party's elite was a surprise to some. Jiang Wei, head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Judicial Reform, told reporters that the case against Zhou "strongly reflects our attitude and determination to punish corruption". Thursday's news conference was a rare opportunity for foreign media to question the party about Zhou. "You asked about why there was no mention of the Zhou Yongkang case at the Fourth Plenary Session, that is because Zhou Yongkang no longer serves on the central leadership, so this plenary session did not make a decision on his problem," Jiang said. After the media conference, an aide accompanying Jiang said: "No comment, no comment" in English as a Reuters journalist attempted to ask more about Zhou's case. Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - the apex of power in China - and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012. Jiang said that he had no knowledge on the progress of Zhou's case. The party said in July that it had launched a corruption investigation into Zhou. Zhou's case sent shockwaves through the political establishment, and served as a warning that Xi was serious about his anti-graft fight and that no one was above the law, not even former Politburo Standing Committee members such as Zhou. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)