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Head of China's Hebei Province Investigated on Corruption Charges

FILE - Communist Party Secretary of Hebei province Zhou Benshun speaks at a session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, March 7, 2015.

The head of a major Chinese province and former aide to disgraced official Zhou Yongkang has been placed under investigation as part of a widening probe into alleged corruption.

Hebei province Communist Party head Zhou Benshun is suspected of "severe violations of discipline and the law," the party's anti-graft watchdog said in a brief statement issued late Friday.

No details were given, although the term is a standard euphemism for corruption.

Zhou is the first serving provincial chief to fall in a crackdown on corruption at all levels of government by President Xi Jinping that's seen as also targeting threats to Xi's power.

Zhou formerly held key positions in the central government's Politics and Law Commission headed by Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee who was sentenced to life in prison last month on charges that he took 130 million yuan ($21 million) in bribes and caused 1.4 billion yuan ($229 million) in losses of public money.

The two Zhous are not believed to be related.

In a further step in the anti-corruption campaign, former President Hu Jintao's top aide was arrested last week on corruption charges, stripped of his party membership and removed from all government positions.

The move came seven months after Hu's former aide Ling Jihua was placed under internal investigation for disciplinary violations.