China investigates senior military officials for graft amid crackdown

BEIJING (Reuters) - China kicked off investigations into several senior military officials on serious graft charges last year, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday, as the country works to stamp out corruption in its armed forces.

Many of those implicated have ties to the corruption scandal of a former top military officer, Xu Caihou, who retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year. China announced last summer it was investigating Xu for graft.

The 16 officials accused of "seriously violating party discipline", a common euphemism for graft, include the former commander of the military region of the central province of Shanxi, Fang Wenping, the ministry said.

It was the first announcement of action faced by the officials, but did not detail all the charges against them.

Liu Zheng and Fu Linguo, former deputy directors of the powerful General Logistics Department, were both placed under investigation.

Yu Daqing, former deputy political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps, the military's nuclear and conventional missile division, was also put under investigation, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website.

But it gave no details of the status of the investigations.

Serving and retired Chinese military officers have said graft in the armed forces is so pervasive it could undermine China's ability to wage war.

Xu had confessed to taking "massive" bribes in exchange for favours, such as granting promotions.

President Xi Jinping, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, has vowed to eradicate corruption in China's armed forces, which are 2.3 million-strong.

China said last month it was investigating Gao Xiaoyan, Communist Party boss of the discipline committee at the People's Liberation Army Information Engineering University.