In a major purge of the Chinese military, nine senior generals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including senior officials of the country’s Rocket Force, have been dismissed from Parliament, official media reported in Beijing on Saturday.
Those dismissed from the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s Parliament, include five past or current top commanders of the PLA Rocket Force, which handles the missiles division and a key component of the country’s nuclear arsenal, besides a former Air Force commander, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
The report carried the announcement of the Standing Committee of the NPC but did not attribute any reason for their disqualification. These generals are part of a substantial number of members of the Chinese military who formed part of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and are appointed to the NPC.
Their dismissals come days after the NPC appointed former naval commander General Dong Jun as the new Defence Minister, two months after the summary dismissal of General Li Shangfu without any explanation.
Those whose membership was terminated from the NPC included Zhang Zhenzhong, Zhang Yulin, Rao Wenmin, Ju Xinchun, Ding Laihang, Lu Hong, Li Yuchao, Li Chuanguang and Zhou Yaning, according to the NPC announcement.
A new anti-corruption drive in China has led to the downfall of several past and present senior commanders in the Rocket Force, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted official sources as saying. The military’s anti-corruption body has been investigating the force’s current commander Li Yuchao, as well as Zhang Zhenzhong and Liu Guangbin, his past and present deputies.
Li, who was the most senior general to be caught up in the latest investigation, is only the third commander of the rocket force, which was created during a major overhaul of the military in 2015. Li had disappeared from the public eye in late August and no reason was given for his removal either.
“Almost all the senior generals [in the rocket force] had good reputations before their promotion. They became immoral after moving to Beijing headquarters, allowing them to have more chances to engage with defence-related enterprises,” the Post quoted an official source as saying.
Those who were terminated from the Rocket Force were reportedly closely linked to the dismissed Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu, whose whereabouts are not known. Their membership was terminated under the relevant provisions of the law of the People’s Republic of China concerning the representatives to the NPC, said the official announcement issued on Friday.
This is not the first time top generals of the PLA were dismissed for corruption as a number of them were summarily removed for graft and abuse of power after Xi came to power in 2012.
Over a million officials are said to have been punished in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign according to the official media accounts. The intensity of the campaign also attracted criticism that Xi made effective use of it to silence his critics and rivals within the party.
Representatives of the PLA from all the military wings hold a chunk of the 2,996-strong member NPC. While the NPC holds its annual session with full members, a 175-member Standing Committee of the NPC periodically meets to conduct that legislative business. On Friday, it was announced that the next annual session will be held on March 5.
Also, the NPC Standing Committee on Friday appointed Dong Jun, a close confidant of Chinese President Xi, as Defence Minister. Formerly the commander of the Chinese navy, Dong was promoted to the rank of general in September 2021, making him one of the highest-ranking officers in active service.
Before Li, Foreign Minister Qin Gang was also removed without an explanation. Qin was replaced by Wang Yi as Foreign Minister. The fate of both Li and Qin is not known. Li had disappeared from the public eye in late August and no reason was given for his removal either.
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