The Chinese Communist Party has expelled a senior official who took refuge in the United States, according to the official Xinhua News agency.

The official, Xu Jiatun, who served as the top Chinese representative in Hong Kong from 1983 to early 1990, fled in April last year and since May has been living in seclusion in Los Angeles.He was the highest level party member to flee China in the wake of the army crackdown on the 1989 student-led democracy movement and is the most senior person to be expelled from the party.

Xu, 74, had headed Xinhua's Hong Kong branch, which serves as China's chief official presence in the British colony.

At the time he fled, Hong Kong newspapers said Xu feared being punished for sympathizing with the democracy movement and for failing to discipline party members in Hong Kong who criticized the subsequent crackdown.

Xinhua said Sunday that Xu violated party discipline by going to the United States without permission.