Monday, April 19, 2021

China’s military demotes over 70 officers ‘for bribing Fang Fenghui’

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More than 70 serving and retired senior officers with the People’s Liberation Army have been demoted for their involvement in a corruption scandal that has rocked the PLA leadership, military sources said.

The officers – who included at least one general and two lieutenant generals – were punished for their connections to Fang Fenghui, the former chief of joint staff.

Their demotions were based on confessions given by Fang, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in February for taking bribes, according to three separate military sources, who requested anonymity.

“Among the officers, 44 of them belonged to the Beijing Military Command where Fang was the commander from 2007 to 2012,” one military source said.

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“They were found guilty of bribing Fang in exchange for promotions. Others were former subordinates who offered Fang bribes when he was promoted to chief of joint staff,” the source added.

There are more than 4,000 officers holding the rank of major general or above in the PLA at present.

The penalties were announced by the PLA disciplinary commission and a list of demotions was circulated among the senior ranks in the past 10 days, a retired officer in Beijing said.

The most senior officer involved was Liu Fulian, the former political commissar of the Beijing Military Command. Liu was demoted from the rank of general to a division-level officer, the military source said.

The Beijing Military Command was merged into one of five “battle zones” within the PLA in 2016.

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“Major General Cheng Qibo, who was president of the PLA General Hospital and later deputy chief of the Beijing Military Command’s joint logistics department, received the most severe penalty,” the retired officer said. “He was demoted six ranks to a battalion officer.”

Fang, 68, was arrested on November 23, 2017 – the same day General Zhang Yang, a former head of the Central Military Commission’s political work department, committed suicide after he learned that corruption investigators were on their way to arrest him.
State news agency Xinhua later reported that both Fang and Zhang had links to former CMC vice-chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two of the most senior officers brought down in President Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown on the military that began in 2012.

Guo, 77, was jailed for life in July 2016, while Xu died from cancer in custody a year earlier at the age of 72 while he was under investigation.

Fang was the PLA’s youngest ever regional commander. Widely considered a rising star, he was in the limelight in 2009 when he commanded the national military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

He was made a general in 2010 and two years later became chief of joint staff and joined the CMC, the military’s top policymaking body.

Most of the more than 70 senior officers demoted were political commissars or in charge of logistics operations, according to a retired naval officer.

“The latest penalties were lenient. None of them were sentenced to jail because they were seen as underlings of Fang, who was Guo and Xu’s protégé,” the retired naval officer said.

“The case [Fang’s] is seen as a scandal in the family,” he said. “The lenient punishment suggests Xi doesn’t want to taint the PLA’s image any further or damage morale.”

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More than 13,000 military officers were punished for corruption-related offences between 2012 and 2017, according to a report in official newspaper PLA Daily.

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