Chinese general kills himself after facing graft probe
A Chinese general has killed himself in his Beijing home after becoming the latest top official ensnared by President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign, state media said Tuesday.
Zhang Yang, a member of the state’s Central Military Commission, was being investigated over connections to two graft-tainted former senior military officers when he hanged himself on November 23, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Xi promised during last month’s Communist Party congress to intensify graft crackdowns which have already brought down 1.5 million party officials of various levels — including top military brass since 2012.
Zhang, 66, was previously head of the state military commission’s political work department. Before the congress, he was also part of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission. Members of the two bodies overlap.
According to Xinhua, which cited a commission statement, Zhang “gravely violated disciplinary protocols and broke the law, was suspected of bribery as well as taking bribes, and holding valuable assets whose origins are unclear.”
A posting on a social media account managed by the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military’s official newspaper, accused Zhang of “escaping responsibility” via suicide.
“The once-high-and-mighty general has ended his life in this disgraceful way,” the post said Tuesday, calling Zhang a “two-faced” person who “shouted loyalty from his mouth while committing corruption behind his back”.
“The army holds the barrel of a gun we cannot allow any corrupt elements to hide behind it.”
Xinhua reported that the state military commission decided to hold “talks” with Zhang on August 28 about his links to Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, top army officials who were expelled from the communist party.
Guo, a vice-chairman of the commission, became the most senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) official to be convicted of corruption in half a century when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016.
Xu, also a vice-chairman, died of cancer in 2015 while under investigation for graft.
Ni Lexiong, a professor at the Shanghai National Defense Strategy Institute, told AFP that Zhang was in charge of human resources as the director of the state military commission’s political work department.
“He had a lot of power,” Ni said. “Over these 20-plus years, how many high- and low-ranking military officials bought their way into their positions? I’m afraid the total would be quite scary if it’s comprehensively investigated: likely every level (of the military) was impacted.”
– Tigers and flies –
Critics of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which has promised to take down both high-level “tigers” and low-level “flies”, claim it is a front for removing his political enemies.
In the past, graft-fighting efforts have relied heavily on a shadowy extralegal internal justice system known as “shuanggui”.
But Xi announced during last month’s national congress that this would be phased out and replaced with a new legal mechanism.
Chinese courts have a near-perfect conviction rate of 99.92 percent.
Xi has sought to enhance his control over the two-million-strong military, the world’s largest, reshuffling its leadership and vowing to make it “world-class” by 2050.
The military was ordered earlier this month to pledge to be “absolutely loyal, honest and reliable to Xi” in new guidelines released by the Central Military Commission.
Though China’s military budget remains a third that of the United States, its spending has grown steadily for 30 years, with purchases or construction of fighter jets, ships and hi-tech weaponry.