A high-ranking official who oversees State-owned firms is under investigation for "suspected serious disciplinary violations," highlighting the latest major case in an unprecedented campaign to combat corruption.
The Communist Party of China (CPC)'s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) made the brief announcement on its website on Sunday about Jiang Jiemin, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council, without giving further details.
Jiang was last seen on Friday paying an official visit to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, according to media reports. Screen captures show the SASAC's official website carried a report about Jiang's visit on its home page but the report was later removed.
Jiang had been the Party chief of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) between 2006 and 2013, a State-owned enterprise (SOE) that is Asia's largest oil and gas producer, before being appointed head of the State assets commission in March.
He was elected as a member of the CPC Central Committee in November, and is one of the most powerful officials under graft investigation since the 18th National Congress of CPC.
Four other senior executives from CNPC were also sacked for "serious violations of discipline" last week, including Wang Yongchun, deputy general manager of the CNPC; Li Hualin, deputy general manager of the CNPC; Ran Xinquan, vice president of PetroChina, the listed arm of the CNPC; and Wang Daofu, chief geologist of PetroChina.
Caixin Media, a Beijing-based magazine, quoted an anonymous source on Sunday as saying that the removal of the four senior executives "was triggered by the result of auditing Jiang as he left CNPC for his new post."
The information could not be confirmed as calls to the CNPC went unanswered on Sunday.
The policy to audit high-ranking government or SOE leaders during their term or after they leave office was initiated by the State Council in December 2010 to curb embezzlement and corruption.
Analysts believed the investigation reflects an unprecedented level of determination from authorities to fight graft, as corruption among government officials has become one of the top concerns that disrupt social stability and weaken public confidence in justice.
"The intensity and severity of the anti-corruption campaign was rarely seen in the past," Hu Xingdou, a political science professor with the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.
"It gives people confidence to see officials with so much power are not spared punishment once they commit a crime," Hu said.
The probe came shortly after the open trial of former leader of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The extending list also includes Liu Zhijun, former railways minister, who was given a suspended death penalty in early July for bribery and abuse of power.
Liu Tienan, former deputy director of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, is being probed for bribe-taking. Li Chuncheng, former vice secretary of the CPC Committee of Sichuan Province, was sacked in December over suspected "serious disciplinary violations."
President Xi Jinping, who took office in March, has vowed to crack down on both low-level "flies" and high-ranking "tigers" in anti-corruption moves.
"Aside from government officials, Jiang's case brought out concerns regarding corruption within SOEs. They control a huge amount of State assets without much competition from the market or strict supervision from the public, making corruption in SOEs even easier," Wang Wenzhang, a professor at the Institute of Social Development at Peking University, told the Global Times.
"Corruption has become the top concern of today's society as it aggravates people's discontent over inequality in wealth," Wang added.