The chief of a Chinese military intelligence agency is under investigation for alleged corruption, detained by graft-busters in the run-up to Lunar New Year, according to two independent sources. Major General Xing Yunming, the former liaison office head of the People's Liberation Army's General Political Department, was taken away by the army's anti-graft watchdog on February 17. He was in charge of overseas espionage and is better known to the West as the vice-chairman of the government-backed China Association for International Friendly Contact, which used to be the Department of Enemy Work. "Xing was born in the Year of Goat, and some are saying sarcastically that it was his year to be taken away," one of the sources said. Xing's detention follows that of Ma Jian, former executive deputy minister of the omnipotent Ministry of State Security. Ma is closely linked to Ling Jihua , who was detained last month on corruption charges and was an aide to former president Hu Jintao. Ma is the highest-ranking national security official to be investigated since the downfall of Zhou Yongkang, the former security tsar who was detained in July over alleged corruption. Military observers said the detentions pointed to an overhaul of the Communist Party's intelligence wings in the aftermath of Zhou's arrest. Xing is also a former subordinate of Xu Caihou, the disgraced former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission who headed the General Political Department from 2002 to 2004. However, the source said Xing's arrest was not directly related to Xu, but to another former CMC vice-chairman, Guo Boxiong . Another source close to the army, who like Xing is from Shandong province, confirmed Xing's detention, but said the reason for it was not clear. The liaison office also used to be part of the enemy work department but its job now is to foster contacts with retired foreign military officials, according to Professor Arthur Ding Shu-fan, from the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "The CAIFC is really an intelligence agency affiliated with the General Political Department to study foreign military strategies. Its goal is to come up with measures to destroy the PLA's enemies," Ding said. "Xing's case is probably part of a massive political effort to clear the intelligence system of partisans of Zhou and Xu." Xing's public roles include membership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The CAIFC's website still listed Xing as its vice-chairman yesterday. It did not refer to his military background, a common practice to mask an intelligence officer's identity. But Xing's PLA background was apparent from the website for Yongfeng county in Shanxi province, the hometown of late PLA general Guo Linxiang . The report said Xing was a key aide to Guo, who retired as deputy head of the General Political Department in 1992 and died in 2010 aged 96. Early reports carried by US-based portal Mingjing said the PLA's anti-graft watchdog started internal investigations into Xing in September.