In a stunning fall from grace, Chinese state-run media reported Tuesday that Gen. Fang Fenghui, a former member of China’s powerful Central Military Commission and former chief of the CMC Joint Staff Department, had been referred to military prosecutors on suspicion of bribery.
The official Xinhua News Agency, which reported the move, gave no other details.
Fang, once the fifth-ranking officer on the CMC, had been questioned by authorities in September about “economic problems,” media reports said at the time. He was replaced at the Joint Staff Department in late August after playing host to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford earlier that month.
Fang, 66, was reportedly once the youngest commander of a People’s Liberation Army military region, and was described as an “opportunist” in one media report citing military insiders.
He is the latest “tiger” to be swept up in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign targeting both top officials, known euphemistically as tigers, and local-level civil servants, or “flies.”
Fang’s referral to prosecutors follows the November suicide of former Gen. Zhang Yang, who served alongside him on the commission.
Zhang, director of the CMC’s political department, had been under investigation over alleged links to disgraced former Gens. Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, who had both served as vice chairmen of the commission.
The probe had verified that Zhang “gravely violated discipline” and was “suspected of giving and taking bribes,” though the origin of a vast amount of assets was unclear, according to state media.
Rooting out corruption is at the forefront of Xi’s ambitious goals for China’s military. During a speech to the twice-a-decade Chinese Communist Party congress in October, Xi set a 2050 deadline for transforming the country’s military into “world-class forces.”
In a glowing profile of the Chinese leader in November, Xinhua said that “more than 100 PLA officers at or above the corps-level, including two former CMC vice chairmen, have been investigated and punished” since the party’s 18th congress in 2012.
“The number is even greater than that of army generals who died in the battlefield during revolutionary times,” it boasted.
But experts say Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, has also used the anti-corruption campaign to further solidify his grip on power by targeting rivals, ensuring that any threat to his reign be kept in check.
Fang was reportedly close to Xi’s predecessor, former President Hu Jintao, indicating the internecine politics inside China’s Communist Party may have played a role in his downfall.
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