A senior People's Liberation Army officer has reportedly been sacked after being implicated in 'economic problems', a mainland euphemism for corruption, sources in Beijing say.
Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, the deputy chief of the General Logistics Department, was taken away by investigators from the military's disciplinary watchdog a day after his last public appearance, at a Spring Festival reception for military veterans on January 18, according to a source close to the military.
Gu attended the reception with the chief of the logistics unit, General Liao Xilong, and its political commissar, General Liu Yuan .
A media source in Beijing confirmed that Gu was put under investigation days before the Lunar New Year on January 23, adding that Liu had played a key role in the process.
Liu is a rising military star who has been tipped to become head of the PLA's General Political Department and a member of its top decision-making body, the Central Military Commission, during a major reshuffle set to take place this autumn.
The internet, especially microblogs, have been buzzing with speculation about the removal for the past few days of 56-year-old Gu, a native of Henan province.
If the reports are borne out, Gu would be the highest-ranked military officer subject to a probe since the downfall of Admiral Wang Shouye, who was deputy commander of the navy, in 2005.
Rampant graft at various levels has long been a problem for the PLA. Comments by Zhang Musheng, an influential mainland intellectual and a close adviser to Liu, at a symposium in Beijing on December 23 might give a clue as to Gu's 'economic problems'.
A Beijing-based academic who attended the meeting said Zhang, explaining the tough fight against corrupt officials, had cited the case of a lieutenant general from Henan who had bought land in central Shanghai for 20 million yuan (HK$24.6 million) per mu (666 square metres) and sold it to private developer for two billion yuan per mu.
Zhang had also said the officer gave friends more than 400 upmarket houses meant for retired senior cadres. Zhang was quoted as saying that superiors had tried to probe the errant general for half a year, but failed because he was protected by a more senior officer.
Gu oversaw the construction of barracks and infrastructure before he was promoted to his recent post in late 2009. A Defence Ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.