Zhou Yongkang, China's former security boss, has been formally charged with corruption and leaking of state secrets, setting the stage for him to become the highest-level politician to stand trial in China in more than three decades. The long-expected indictment, announced today by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, followed a lengthy investigation that also had scrutinized Zhou's former allies in government and the oil industry. Zhou is the highest-level official charged as part of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign that began in late 2012. He would be the most senior politician to stand trial since the 1981 treason trial of Mao Zedong's wife and other members of the "Gang of Four" who persecuted political opponents during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
Zhou was once perceived as untouchable. As China's security chief, he oversaw the country's domestic spy agencies, a position that afforded him access to information on other high-ranking politicians who might pose a threat to him. "Anyone who finds themselves formally indicted with a criminal offense in China knows the likely outcome," writes John Sudworth at the BBC. "But Zhou Yongkang will know better than anyone. He once ran the country's domestic security apparatus, with his power stretching into the court system, the police, and the intelligence services." Sudworth and other commentators say that whatever Zhou's crimes, the charges against him are a sign he was on the losing side in a power struggle.