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Second Chinese politburo member under a cloud

world Updated: Apr 21, 2012 01:29 IST

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China's leaders want Bo Xilai's downfall seen as a blow against corruption - not as part of a power struggle. But with a second, even higher-ranking Politburo member now suspected to be under pressure, it will become difficult to avoid the perception of all-out infighting.

Moves against Zhou Yongkang, China's security chief, could undermine attempts to portray the Bo scandal as a fight to uphold the rule of law and would reinforce a skeptical public's view that the Communist Party is in disarray months before a once-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders.

In keeping with China's closed political system, the information released publicly about Bo's case has been little, the rumors many and almost no one is willing to speak on the record.

But overseas-based Chinese websites and political insiders are now saying that Zhou, one of nine members of the party's powerful Politburo Standing Committee, is under scrutiny and could face a reckoning.

"Internally, the power struggle is getting more intense and, if true, Zhou's removal would be seriously damaging," Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said.

Zhou, 72, is widely reported to have been the only leading official to have argued against last week's striking decision to suspend Bo's membership in the 25-seat Politburo - a step that effectively ended the political career of one of China's most ambitious politicians.

Bo, 62, also has been removed from his position as party chief in the city of Chongqing and is now under investigation for disciplinary violations, possibly relating to corruption or interference in police work. His wife, Gu Kailai, and a household aide were named as suspects in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood and handed over to police.