He was originally from Lixin, Anhui. He was detained by the authorities for investigation in 2015 and then expelled from the Communist Party of China. According to his official biography, Li joined the People"s Liberation Army in 1969, joined the Communist Party of China in March 1971, and has a post-graduate degree.
After retiring from military service, Li worked in Nilka County in Xinjiang as a labourer in the grains department.
He then went on to serve in the Region"s Light Manufacturing Bureau. He then served for about a decade in the hops industry.
In 1993, he became the General Manager and Chairman of Xinjiang Hops Holdings Limited.
His administrative career with the Communist Party began in 2000 as the deputy party chief of Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture. He then became the party chief of the Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture.
He returned to Changji in January 2005 as the prefecture"s party chief, and was elevated to the party chief of Ürümqi in November 2006, becoming first-in-charge of Xinjiang"s capital.
The party chief position in Ürümqi typically comes with an ex officio seat on the provincial Party Standing Committee. Li Zhi was highly visible during the July 2009 Ürümqi riots. He calmed crowds on the streets of the capital using loudspeakers.
After a series of deadly syringe attacks in the city, on September 5, 2009, after approval from the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China, Li was stripped of his post as party chief of Ürümqi.
Number official reasons were given for his removal from office. However, the Xinjiang leadership was facing tough questions from the local population on what was perceived as the poor handling of the rioting and subsequent unrest.
Some sources suggest that Li was a scapegoat, removed to calm calls for the resignation of Wang Lequan, the Xinjiang regional party chief The Xinjiang police chief was also removed from office on the same day.
In January 2008, Li became one of the Vice-Chairmen of the Xinjiang Regional People"s Congress, he stayed on the post for five years.
Li was the first official who spent their entire career in Xinjiang to be investigated in the anti-corruption campaign after the 18th Party Congress. His predecessor as party chief of Urumqi Yang Gang had also been investigated, but Yang was not serving in Xinjiang at the time of his investigation. On June 6, 2015, following an investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), Li was expelled from the Communist Party.