BEIJING - Retired Chinese general Guo Boxiong has been sacked from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and handed over to face charges over bribery in a pay-for-rank scandal, the second high-ranking military leader to face such a fate under President Xi Jinping.
The CCP's 25-member Politburo met yesterday to approve the sacking of Gen Guo, 72, who had served alongside Mr Xi as one of the three vice-chairmen of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) till 2012.
Another fallen CMC vice-chairman was General Xu Caihou, 72, who died of bladder cancer in March this year amid graft investigations by Mr Xi. Xu was the highest-ranking military leader since 1949 to face graft charges.
Talk surfaced last year that Gen Guo had become a target of Mr Xi's anti-corruption campaign, which is seen by some as a political purge of the latter's opponents.
A sure sign of his political trouble emerged in March when his son, Major-General Guo Zhenggang, was named among 14 military top brass to be investigated for disciplinary violations, an euphemism for corrupt acts.
Still, there were reports that Gen Guo was suffering too from cancer like Xu and might be let off by Mr Xi, over concerns that the prospects of two retired generals dying during investigations might trigger political backlash.
A report by the official Xinhua news agency late last night said Gen Guo was formally investigated on April 9 and investigators found that he had used his positions to help others obtain promotions and other benefits in return for bribes through himself or his family members.
It said the decision to investigate Gen Guo fully reflected the "political determination" by the central leadership and Mr Xi in governing the party and the military and also in fighting corruption.
"No matter how powerful someone is, how high-ranking the posts, as long as the party discipline and national laws are violated, we have to investigate tirelessly and never go soft on them," added the Xinhua report.
Gen Guo's sacking comes 10 days after the sacking of former presidential aide Ling Jihua, who was the long-time righthand man of former CCP chief Hu Jintao.
Analysts say the two high-level sackings within a week are timed with the impending start of the CCP's annual summer retreat in seaside Beidaihe, where past and present leaders converge to discuss top policy and personnel issues.
Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam said Mr Xi is likely hoping that the sackings could let him enter the Beidaihe meeting from a position of strength instead of possibly running into opposition from retired leaders on how to handle the two cases.
He also believes Mr Xi's decision to go after his two fellow CMC vice-chairman reflects the President's "ruthlessness" in pursuing his goal of consolidating his powerbase within the military.
"It also shows that the military is still one of the most important pillars of Xi's powerbase. So even though going after two retired CMC vice-chairmen could be a risky move, he still has to do it to strengthen his support," Prof Lam told The Straits Times.
He referred to a slew of military promotions in the past two months, particularly those with experience in the Nanjing Military Region, which is seen as a trusted stronghold of Mr Xi as it covers the Zhejiang, Fujian provinces where he spent most of his political career in.