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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will prosecute the former mayor of the northern city of Tianjin for suspected graft, the state prosecutor said on Sunday, taking a step that will almost certainly result in his conviction.

Dozens of senior people have been investigated or jailed since President Xi Jinping assumed power four years ago, vowing to root out corruption, warning, like others before, that the problem threatens the Communist Party's grip on power.

The party announced in September the investigation into Huang Xingguo, who had been mayor of the important port city - about an hour from Beijing - since 2008. Huang was also Tianjin's acting Communist Party chief.

As the party controls the legal system the courts will not challenge its accusations, giving Huang little chance of acquittal.

In a brief statement the state prosecutor said Huang was suspected of taking bribes and it had formally started proceedings against him. It has also approved "coercive measures", a Chinese legal term that generally means detention.

It gave no other details.

It was not possible to reach Huang for comment and unclear if he has been allowed to retain legal representations.

Tianjin has ambitions to become a financial hub for northern China and is one of four conurbations - along with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing - termed a municipality, giving it the same high status as a province.

In 2015, a series of massive explosions at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin killed about 170 people, sparking anger nationwide that it had been built so close to residential areas.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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