Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

Two more of China’s former top commanders taken away for corruption investigation: military sources

Latest probes bring total to four as sources suggest impending new round of crackdown on corrupt high-ranking military officials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 11:23pm

Two retired commanders of the People’s Liberation Army are believed to have been taken away for possible “violations of party discipline”, a euphemism for corruption, sources familiar with the military say, in a sign of an ongoing power shake-up in the PLA under President Xi Jinping.

General Li Jinai, former director of the general political department in charge of senior personnel changes, and General Liao Xilong, former head of the general logistics department responsible for supplies and support services, were both taken away during a meeting for retired senior cadres in July, according to a source close to the military.

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Another military source, based in Beijing, confirmed that Li, 74, and Liao, 76, were taken away by PLA disciplinary officers.

It was not clear whether the two men were under investigation or if they were helping with inquiries against other top military officers.

Faxed questions from the South China Morning Post to the defence ministry were not answered, despite repeated requests for a response.

Both Li and Liao were members of the powerful Central Military Commission, which oversees the military, before they retired in early 2013.

The investigations involving Li and Liao, came just days after a military court sentenced the commission’s former vice-chairman Guo Boxiong to life imprisonment, reflecting the continuing consolidation of power in the armed forces by Xi, the commission’s chairman and the PLA’s commander-in-chief.

By bringing down four of the commission’s 10 military members – Xu Caihou, another vice-chairman who died last year during a probe into his affairs – Xi’s house-cleaning of the armed forces has exceeded that of his predecessors Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and even Deng Xiaoping.

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The timing of a possible disciplinary investigation into Li and Liao also comes days before the PLA’s 79th anniversary and a gathering of Chinese leaders in the resort of Beidaihe that is expected to set the direction for the next generation of leaders and key policies.

Li and Liao are powerful players in the PLA, both having spent their entire careers in the army, rising from regular soldiers to top decision makers.

Li, a graduate of the Harbin Institute of Technology, was a key figure in the development of China’s advanced weapons during his time with the Second Artillery Corps, China’s strategic missile force, and the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

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The veteran political commissar was considered to be a rising military star when he became a deputy director of the PLA’s powerful general political department in 1990 at age 48.

He was chief of China’s first programme to send an astronaut into space in 2003. The following year, he became head of the general political department, the top unit for deciding promotions.

Liao, dubbed a “war hero”, gained fame for his role in a fierce battle against Vietnamese forces in the early 1980s. Deng rewarded Liao for his bravery with a promotion to deputy commander.

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Chinese media reported on July 15 that Li was among a number of serving and retired top military officers who mourned the death of Major General Ye Xuanning, the son of PLA Marshal Ye Jianying, one of the founders of the People’s Republic of China.

Overseas reports suggested in May that both Major General Zhu Xinjian, a former secretary to Li, and Major General Liao Xijun, formerly a deputy commander of the Guizhou provincial military district in the now defunct Chengdu Military Command and the younger brother of Liao Xilong, came under investigation earlier.

But General Liu Yuan, a former political commissar of the general logistics department, lauded Liao Xilong for his full support in fighting his notoriously corrupt colleague Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, the former deputy director of the same department.

It is understood that General Liu, also the son of former president Liu Shaoqi, risked his life to bring down Gu a couple of years ago. Gu’s downfall in turn triggered the investigation of his protector, General Xu Caihou.

Various sources said there would be a new crackdown on corrupt high-ranking PLA officers after the downfall in early July of General Tian Xiusi, the former political commissar of the air force.

Rooting out PLA corruption is helping Xi Jinping to build his power base

The four headquarters of the PLA, including both the general political department and the general logistics department, were dissolved late last year in the most extensive military reform championed by Xi.