Retired Chinese general Guo Boxiong has been sacked from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and will face charges for bribery, 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, aged 73 this year, and to hand him to military prosecutors. He had served alongside Mr Xi as one of the three vice-chairmen of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) until his retirement in 2012. The other retired CMC vice-chairman was 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 trouble emerged in March when his son, Major-General Guo Zhenggang, was named among 14 top military leaders to be investigated for disciplinary violations, a euphemism for corrupt acts.
Still, there were reports that Gen Guo, who is also suffering from cancer, might be let off over concerns that the prospect 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 position to help others obtain promotions and other benefits in return for bribes.
It said the decision to investigate Gen Guo reflects the "political determination" by the central leadership and Mr Xi in governing the party and military, and in fighting graft.
Gen Guo's sacking comes 10 days after the firing of former presidential aide Ling Jihua, who was the long-time right-hand man of former CCP chief Hu Jintao.
Analysts said the two high-level sackings are timed to the impending start of the CCP's annual retreat in Beidaihe, where past and present leaders converge to discuss top policy and personnel issues.
Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam believes Mr Xi's decision to go after his two former fellow CMC vice-chairmen reflects the President's "ruthlessness" in pursuing his goal of consolidating his power base within the military.
"It also shows that the military is still one of the most important pillars of Xi's power base. 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," Professor Lam told The Straits Times.