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Zhang Yang (left) director of the military’s political work department and Fang Fenghui, former chief of the Joint Staff Department, are not among the delegation to attend the party congress. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Chinese general reported to be facing corruption probe off military delegation to party congress

Fang Fenghui sits on the Central Military Commission and had been tipped to fill one of its top positions

Two top generals who sit on China’s Central Military Commission have been left out of a military delegation attending next month’s Communist Party congress.

The move comes after media reports suggested that one of the officers, Fang Fenghui, had been questioned on suspicion of corruption.

Fang, who was a former chief at the Joint Staff Department in China’s military, was questioned about “economic problems”, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Fang was replaced at the department late last month.

He played host to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Joseph Dunford, in China in August, but there has been no mention of him in state media since he was replaced by General Li Zuocheng.

Overseas media had previously speculated he might be in line for promotion to be the commission’s vice-chairman.
Fang Fenghui (second left) pictured sitting next to Ivanka Trump during Xi Jinping’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Florida in April. Photo: AP

Another surprise omission from the list of delegates published by the People’s Liberation Army Daily on Wednesday is the director of the political work department, General Zhang Yang. He also sits on the military commission.

Failure to attend the congress, which starts on October 18, suggests the two men are almost certain to be excluded from sitting on the commission after a reshuffle among the leadership at the five-yearly event

Fang, 66, is thefifth ranking officer in the powerful military commission.
Fang Fenghui (second left) with US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford (centre) at a welcoming ceremony for the US officer in Beijing last month. Photo: AP

He was a member of President Xi Jinping’s entourage when he met Donald Trump in Florida this April, and was pictured sitting next to Trump’s daughter Ivanka at a banquet.

Zhang is the sixth ranking member of the 11-strong military commission.

Fang and Zhang are the only two sitting members not on the congress military delegation list.

Outgoing members of the commission usually join the party congress delegation, as was the case five years ago for Fang and Zhang’s predecessors.

Admiral Wu Shengli, who retired as the navy’s top commander earlier this year, still sits on the military commission and is among the delegation attending the Communist Party congress.

Beijing-based military commentator Wu Ge said that while the generals’ absence from the delegation list was a fairly clear indicator of where their political paths were headed, other delegates to the congress should not be lulled into thinking that their attendance at the event was somehow a guarantee of immunity.

Sometimes people keep their jobs as a matter of convenience and logistics, he said.

“We’ve seen in the past that cadres or generals who had long lost Beijing’s trust were still assigned to important positions,” he said.

“That’s because the military positions have rigid requirements for age and portfolio, and it takes a while to find a suitable replacement.”

Fang was considered by many as a loyal protégé of former President Hu Jintao. Close to the end of Hu’s first presidential term in 2007, he plucked Fang from the Guangzhou Military Command and put him in charge of the Beijing command, which is responsible for the defence of the capital.

In that capacity, Fang commanded the military parade held in 2009 to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The event was the largest of its kind during Hu’s tenure as a president.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Two PLA generals missing from delegation to congress