The ruling Chinese Communist Party has expelled Ling Jihua, a former top party aide, for "serious disciplinary violations," official state media said on Tuesday.
Ling, once a top aide of former president Hu Jintao who stepped down in November 2012 after completing two five-year terms, is a former vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee and once led the United Front Work Department, the party's ideological arm.
He was found to have seriously violated the Party's disciplines, seeking benefits for others in his position, receiving bribes for himself and his relatives and illegally accessing confidential information, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
"Ling's actions completely derailed the Party's nature and mission, seriously violating the Party's discipline, and immensely damaged the image of the Party with severely negative social influence," the report said.
Ling had used his position of power to benefit his wife's business, to commit adultery "illegally solicit sex," as well as seeking "illegitimate gains" for his relatives and friends, Xinhua said.
China's state prosecutor announced it would arrest Ling and investigate the allegations of bribery against him, paving the way for a criminal trial, it said.
Ling was head of the Communist Party secretariat under President Hu Jintao, who retired in November 2012 without retaining control of the Central Military Commission, a post usually held for a further two years by retiring party elders.
Ling was placed under investigation by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Dec. 22, 2014 and was later removed from his position as head of the United Front Work Department.
According to an editorial in the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to party mouthpiece the People's Daily, Ling's expulsion was the result of "wild ambition and desire."
It said Ling had failed to "heed the warnings" following the jailing of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, jailed for life for corruption and abuse of power in September 2013, and to whom Ling had close political ties.
"Ling's case shows that his political ambition and personal desires crossed the red line of human decency," the paper said, adding: "He was destined to fall."
Power corrupts majority
Chongqing-based political commentator Zhang Qi said the paper's description painted a picture of a party in which power corrupts the majority of officials.
"If the party's reach continues to expand, then the higher it aims, the farther it will fall," Zhang said. "We can find plenty of examples of this from the history of mankind."
Veteran journalist Cao Guoxing said that Xi's anti-corruption campaign had disproportionately targeted the president's political rivals, and that the anti-corruption cases of Ling, Bo and former security czar Zhou Yongkang were part of an ongoing power struggle in Beijing's corridors of power.
"As we approach the end of Xi's first term in office, they are saying that the anti-corruption campaign is entering its end-game," Cao said.
He said that while Ling's fall means that Hu Jintao's rival Communist Youth League political faction is being targeted, the system itself would likely remain intact.
"The Youth League system is a fast track recruitment channel for the party to train up new cadres," Cao said.
"There is no way they will deny [the value] of this system."
A senior Chinese journalist who declined to be named said the propaganda ministry has already ordered state media to stick to official, Xinhua copy on Ling's expulsion.
"Even if we tried to do our own reporting, we wouldn't find out anything new, only stuff about his circle of influence and his family," the journalist said.
He said speculation is still rife about where Ling's trial will be held, as the trials of major public figures are often held in 'neutral' jurisdictions far from their home turf.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ka Pa and Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.