China's ex-military chief jailed for life over promotion bribes

Guo was stripped of his rank and of his political rights for life. All his assets, and ill-gotten gains, were also seized.
Guo was stripped of his rank and of his political rights for life. All his assets, and ill-gotten gains, were also seized.

China's former military leader Guo Boxiong, the last misbehaving "tiger" - for now - to be punished by President Xi Jinping, will spend life behind bars for his role in a pay-for-rank scandal.

Guo, 73, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) which controls the People's Liberation Army, was also stripped of his rank as full general and of his political rights for life.

All his assets, and ill-gotten gains, were seized and handed to the state treasury, reported the official Xinhua news agency yesterday.

A spokesman for the military court, which held Guo's trial behind closed doors because "some of the criminal evidence involved state secrets", said Guo used his position to help others get promotion and benefits in return for bribes for himself and his family.

But no details were given on the amount of bribes except that it was an "especially large sum". A report in April this year by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, quoting sources, put the amount at around 80 million yuan (S$16.2 million).

China has been announcing developments on major graft cases ahead of an annual retreat held around this time at the Beidaihe seaside resort, partly to allow Mr Xi to set the agenda, say analysts.

Guo confessed to his offence in April this year. He was sacked from the Communist Party last July, three months after being placed under formal investigations.

Another CMC vice-chairman, Xu Caihou, 72, was also charged with bribery in the same scandal but died of bladder cancer in March 2014 before standing trial.

Guo's sentence is identical to that received by other disgraced senior officials, such as former presidential aide Ling Jihua and former security czar Zhou Yongkang, both of whom are serving life terms for graft and other offences including abuse of power.

Zhou, 73, a former member of the apex Politburo Standing Committee, is the biggest prey ensnared in Mr Xi's anti-graft drive that has targeted both "tigers and flies", referring to senior and junior officials.

Beihang University anti-corruption expert Ren Jianming said the closure of Guo's case may mean the end of "tigers" in the anti-graft campaign, which has been blamed by some for disrupting party unity and also a slowdown in the economy.

"The high pressure will remain but it is possible that there won't be any new tigers for some time," he told The Straits Times. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'China's ex-military chief jailed for life over promotion bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe