In the clear? Retired general’s return to the public eye quells rumours of graft investigation
Fan Changlong’s rise up the top ranks was aided by disgraced former general Xu Caihou
A retired Chinese military heavyweight rumoured to be under investigation for corruption has appeared in public, suggesting he could be in the clear.
Fan Changlong, 70, a former vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, was seen with Chinese President Xi Jinping in footage aired on state broadcaster China Central Television’s main evening news bulletin on Friday.
Xi, who chairs the CMC, was attending a Lunar New Year event in Beijing for military veterans, including Fan.
Rumours that Fan was under investigation for corruption had circulated since 2014 when former CMC vice-chairman Xu Caihou was brought down for graft. Fan was widely known as Xu’s top protégé, miliary sources said.
The speculation gained further currency last month after the authorities announced that Fang Fenghui, once the youngest commander of a People’s Liberation Army military region and another Xu protégé, would be prosecuted for allegedly taking and giving bribes.
Asked about the rumours on Thursday, defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian referred to a PLA Daily article published a week earlier in which Fan was quoted talking about the importance of drills for personnel. Wu did not elaborate.
Wu’s remarks came a few days after photographs of Fan were posted on Chinese social media, showing him relaxed, in civilian clothes and writing calligraphy.
Military analysts said the comments suggested that Fan was not in trouble, despite his close relationship with Xu and Guo Boxiong, another disgraced former CMC vice-chairman.
“Almost all the senior officials in the People’s Liberation Army working with Guo and Xu were involved in buying and selling ranks,” a military source said.
Guo and Xu were brought down in a sweeping anti-graft campaign that has claimed the careers of at least 13,000 military officers.
Guo, 75, was jailed for life in July 2016 and Xu died of cancer at the age of 72 in 2015 while in custody.
Like Xu, Fan was born in Liaoning province. He spent more than 30 years in the former 16th Army Corps under the Shenyang Military Area Command, Xu’s power base.
In 2000, when Xu was elevated to the CMC, Fan was promoted to commander of the PLA’s Jinan Military Area Command, one seven throughout the country at the time.
Fan’s promotion gave him a seat on the CMC, and he went on to become the commission’s chairman in 2012, an exceptionally rapid rise aided by Xu.
Fan retired from the CMC at the Communist Party’s national congress in October.