A senior Chinese general who won the national spotlight by overseeing a grand military parade and who vowed unwavering support for President Xi Jinping’s drive against corruption has come under investigation for graft, the latest in a string of People’s Liberation Army commanders to fall.
Gen. Fang Fenghui disappeared from public view nearly five months ago and quietly retired from his posts, igniting rumors that he was under investigation. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, confirmed on Tuesday that military prosecutors were investigating him on charges of giving and taking bribes.
The brief announcement gave no other details. But the charges that he had given, as well as taken, kickbacks raised the possibility that he may have paid his way up the ranks, some Chinese news media said. Xi has warned that such corruption threatens to shake Communist Party rule by eroding the loyalty and preparedness of the armed forces.
“In fact, as early as 2003, he was already a senior military office at military region deputy level,” said a party commentary widely republished by Chinese media. “The target of his bribes must be shocking.”
As a member of the Central Military Commission, which runs the People’s Liberation Army, and chief of staff of the Joint Staff Department, Fang, 66, helped enforce a drastic reorganization of the military forces that Xi began in 2015. He earlier oversaw a military parade in central Beijing in 2009 that marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and Fang seemed to be a cheerleader for Xi’s military modernization.
But Liberation Army Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese military, suggested that Fang belonged to a group of corrupt commanders that included Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, the most senior Chinese military officers taken down by graft charges. Guo and Xu formally came under investigation in 2014, a year or more after they had stepped down.
Fang’s “ideals and convictions had been shaken, he abandoned the mission of the party and degenerated politically, becoming economically rapacious,” said an editorial published in the Liberation Army Daily on Wednesday. His misdeeds, it added, had “seriously tarnished the image of the party, the military and leading officials.”
Fang’s fate now appears to have been sealed. Like other fallen Chinese officials, he is likely to face trial, be found guilty and spend years in prison. Zhang Yang, another Chinese commander who disappeared around the same time as Fang, avoided that fate by hanging himself in his home in November, Chinese military media reported at the time.