China 'decides to investigate' retired general Guo Boxiong
Beijing has decided to launch an investigation into retired military chief Guo Boxiong and has briefed serving top brass on the general's alleged problems, two independent sources close to senior military officials said.
Speculation over Guo intensified early last month after his son, Major General Guo Zhenggang, was detained in a graft probe, amid President Xi Jinping's high-profile crackdown on corruption in the People's Liberation Army.
If pursued, Guo, formerly a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, would be the second top officer from former president Hu Jintao's administration to fall.
Former general Xu Caihou, who also served as vice-chairman alongside Guo on the CMC, was detained in a corruption probe in March last year and expelled from the Communist Party in October. He died of cancer last month while awaiting prosecution. Military prosecutors had said they would continue to go after other allegedly corrupt officers linked to Xu.
One of the sources told the South China Morning Post that leaders of the PLA's seven key military area commands were ordered to attend an ideological workshop in Beijing on April 9, with an internal document saying the CMC and the army's anti-graft watchdog had decided to investigate Guo and his family.
"The large military area commands' two top leaders - commanders and political commissars - were requested to take part in the meeting," the source said.
The workshop - a regular meeting for military leaders to study Xi's military philosophy - conveyed an updated political message from the incumbent CMC chairman, the source said.
"The meeting enables commanders and political commissars to regularly pledge allegiance to Xi," a Shanghai-based retired senior colonel said. "They made similar pledges before and after the corruption investigation into Xu Caihou."
Lieutenant General Liu Lei, the political commissar of the Lanzhou Military Area Command - Guo's former power base - said in an interview with People's Daily last week that failure to strictly discipline generals would inflict "endless disasters" on the army. A PLA Daily commentary the next day warned officers against graft in the family. Another source said other officers of major general rank and above also received a circular briefing more than a week ago on Guo's alleged wrongdoings.
"It's so far an internal circular sent to generals, not to the whole army. It might take longer for the CMC to make a formal announcement to the public," the second source, who had access to the circular, said.
A Beijing-based retired senior colonel said that compared with Xu's case, the CMC had been more careful when dealing with Guo's investigation.
"It was because Guo wields more influence than Xu, who just took care of political education and personnel in the army," the senior colonel said. "Guo controlled the army's combat and training missions for more than a decade when he became a member of the CMC in 1999.
"Guo is an officer with a grass-roots background and many incumbent commanders were either trained or promoted by him. In order to prevent any disagreements or 'accidents', the CMC has to squash Guo's political influence before making any public announcement."
Xinhua reported on Sunday that the CMC had "recently" issued a guideline on building loyal political departments within the military, demanding that "all levels of the military study Xi's key speeches well".
It said strengthening the military's political work would ensure the troops thoroughly implemented Xi's decisions and instructions, and addressed the pressing need to correct "legacy" problems in the military.
That follows another regulation from the PLA's general political department and anti-graft watchdog, which insisted that all military officials and soldiers seriously study Xi's philosophy of building a strong army and stick to the rule of the "party controls the gun".
The Beijing-based senior colonel said the public had expected Guo would be investigated since the PLA Daily reported last month that his son had come under scrutiny. Guo Zhenggang was among 14 senior officials to be publicly shamed by the military mouthpiece, while his wife Wu Fangfang was reported linked to the developer of an unfinished building in a military-owned area in Hangzhou.