China party expels ex-Politburo member's associate

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BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communist Party on Tuesday expelled a senior official closely connected to a former powerful Politburo member and stripped him of all his titles for violating party discipline.

The fall of Li Chuncheng, formerly deputy party chief for Sichuan province, is widely seen as part of a plan to oust former security czar Zhou Yongkang, who is believed to be under investigation in an anti-graft drive that promises to punish all corrupt officials, no matter how high-ranking.

Li's downfall in late 2012 was unexpected and swift, coming less than a month after a party congress named him a non-voting member of the Central Committee, a position that usually makes one a member of the political elite.

Since then, more political and business associates of Zhou have come under investigation.

The party's disciplinary arm said in a statement Tuesday that an internal investigation found Li to be "degenerate." It said Li used his position to seek benefits for others, including business interests for his brother, and that he, his wife and daughter took "huge amounts" of bribes.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Li also engaged in "superstitious" activities that caused huge financial losses for the country. The statement did not provide details but said Li's case has been handed to judicial officials.

Li was one of the first provincial-level officials to fall after Chinese President Xi Jinping took the helm of the ruling party in the 2012 party congress.

Xi has made fighting corruption a hallmark of his administration and warned that graft, if left unaddressed, could threaten the party's survival.

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