January 9, 2018 / 11:12 AM / 2 months ago

China to prosecute senior military officer on suspicion of bribery

BEIJING (Reuters) - Fang Fenghui, a senior general who sat on China’s top military body, will be prosecuted on suspicion of bribery, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, wait to meet with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool/Files

China’s military, which is the world’s largest and is in the midst of an ambitious modernisation campaign, has been an important focus of President Xi Jinping’s battle to stamp out corruption.

Xinhua’s brief dispatch, which gave no other details, is the first official confirmation of the graft investigation since a Reuters report in September that Fang was being questioned on suspicion of corruption..

Fang, who had accompanied President Xi Jinping to his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in April, was abruptly replaced as chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army in August with no explanation.

The 67-year-old was subsequently replaced as a member of the Central Military Commission at a key five-yearly Communist Party congress in October, as part of a sweeping military leadership reshuffle.

Dozens of officers have been investigated and jailed, including Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, both former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission. Guo was jailed for life last year. Xu died of cancer in 2015 before he could face trial.

Zhang Yang, who served on the commission alongside Fang, committed suicide in November while being investigated for corruption and over his links to Guo and Xu.

Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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