In late 2013, Zhou was placed under investigation for alleged abuse of power and corruption, a decision state media announced in July 2014. Zhou Yongkang(周永康) was the first Politburo Standing Committee member – and the most senior-ranked official – since the founding of the People’s Republic of China to be tried and convicted of corruption-related charges. Following his investigation, Zhou was expelled from the Communist Party of China. On June 11, 2015, Zhou was convicted of bribery, abuse of power and the intentional disclosure of state secrets by the Intermediate Court in Tianjin. Zhou and his family members were said to have taken 129 million yuan (over $20 million) in bribes. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Born Zhou Yuangen (Chinese: 周元根) in December 1942, Zhou is a native of Xiqiantou Village (西前头村), Wuxi County, in Jiangsu province. Xiqiantou is located 18 kilometers (11 mi) outside Wuxi city proper.
In November 1964 Zhou became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of China. In 1966, the Cultural Revolution ensnared Beijing’s higher education institutions. Zhou was told by the authorities to “wait for an assignment” while the political struggles wreaked havoc on China’s universities. He waited for a year. He joined geological survey work in north-east China in 1967, assigned to become an intern technician at factory No. 673 at the Daqing oil field. In 1970, Zhou was promoted to lead the geological survey division of a local department charged with carrying out an ambitious petroleum drilling initiative set out by the Party’s top leadership.
In 1973, Zhou Yongkang was promoted to head the Geophysical Exploration Department of the Liaohe Petroleum Exploration Bureau, located in Panjin, Liaoning.
In 1985, Zhou Yongkang left Liaoning for Beijing to become the Deputy Minister of Petroleum Industry.
In 1999, Zhou became Party Secretary of Sichuan, the province’s top political office. Zhou got the nod to become Minister of Public Security in December 2002.
In 2007, Zhou was transferred to fill the vacancy from Luo Gan, who retired from his leadership position as central Zhengfawei chief. With this powerful position, Zhou also gained a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest council of Communist Party rulers.
In August 2013, the Party began a corruption investigation into Zhou. A number of Zhou’s former subordinates who were then in high-ranking positions were sacked in quick succession. These included Li Chuncheng, a former deputy party secretary in Sichuan; Jiang Jiemin, former chief executive of China Petroleum; Li Dongsheng, former deputy minister of Public Security; Ji Wenlin, Mayor of Haikou and Zhou’s former secretary; and Li Chongxi, a high-ranking official in Sichuan province. His former secretaries (i.e., directors of his office, chief of staff) Li Hualin, Shen Dingcheng, and Guo Yongxiang were all detained.
In December, Zhou, his son Zhou Bin and his daughter-in-law Huang Wan were taken into custody. The home of Zhou’s younger brother Zhou Yuanxing was searched by the authorities twice. Yuanxing died in December 2013 after a battle with cancer. Zhou Yongkang and his son Zhou Bin were not present at the funeral, fuelling speculation that Zhou and his family members were all in custody.
Zhou’s family reportedly made billions of dollars by investing in the oil industry, of which Zhou had headed the largest company, China National Petroleum Corp. According to the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, Zhou’s eldest son made more than US$1.6 billion from public works in the city of Chongqing alone. He also supposedly used his father’s prominence to extort millions of dollars in protection fees from various businesses and organizations.
Zhou was reportedly being held in confinement without visitation rights in a heavily guarded facility on a military base near Baotou, Inner Mongolia.
By March 2014, Chinese authorities were reported to have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from Zhou’s family members and associates.
After his wife Wang Shuhua died, (In 2013, overseas Chinese news websites Mingjing and Boxun both reported that Zhou Yongkang had conspired with his secretary to kill Wang. The credibility of these reports has been questioned). Zhou married Jia Xiaoye (贾晓烨, also been written as 贾晓晔), a former reporter and television producer at CCTV-2, who is 28 years his junior. According to the autobiography of Shen Bing, Zhou and Jia wed at a small, tense private ceremony; no photos were allowed to be taken. Jia continued to maintain a low profile following their wedding; she did not appear at any official functions with Zhou. Indeed, the first official mention of Jia Xiaoye in her capacity as Zhou’s wife was during the latter’s sentencing announcement in June 2015.