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Friday, September 22, 2023

Investigation Launched into Chinese Defense Minister Over Corrupt Procurement

Li gave a keynote address at a security meeting with African countries on August 29 and was last seen in Beijing

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CHINA: Chinese authorities are investigating Defence Minister Li Shangfu, who has been absent from public view for over two weeks, according to reports. A regional security official claims the probe is related to military hardware purchases.

Eight high-ranking members of the Chinese military’s procurement unit, which Li oversaw from 2017 to 2022, are also being examined, according to reports.

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The Chinese military’s disciplinary inspection panel is investigating the appointment of Li and eight officials, as per sources.

According to a British business newspaper, US officials claim that the US government believes Li is the subject of an inquiry. Reports claim that he was taken away for questioning last week.

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US intelligence agencies have not responded to media reports suggesting that Li was being investigated for corruption. US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel asked if Li was under house arrest.

Li gave a keynote address at a security meeting with African countries on August 29 and was last seen in Beijing. He also visited Belarus and Russia earlier that month. As per reports, the investigation began soon after his return from that trip.

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The ministry cancelled Li’s trip to Vietnam for the annual defence summit, citing a “health condition” as the reason. This caused regional diplomats and social media users to question Li’s whereabouts, leading to conversations with a senior Singaporean military official in China.

Following Qin Gang’s mysterious replacement in July, after a protracted hiatus from the public eye, and a reorganisation of the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army’s elite Rocket Force, which is in charge of conventional and nuclear missiles, the investigation into Li is the latest in a series of high-profile removals.

China’s sudden change in leadership, despite economic recovery and strained relations with the US, has sparked questions about the sudden departure of Li and Qin, who were believed to have been hand-picked by President Xi Jinping. Both had prominent positions in the public and were also two of China’s five state councillors.

The military’s purchasing division announced a “clean-up” of its bidding process in July, urging public reporting of abnormalities since Li took over in 2017. The Defence Ministry emphasized its “zero-tolerance for corruption” and the need to investigate and punish corruption cases to combat the ongoing struggle against it.

Li, a deputy commander of the military’s Strategic Support Force, was imposed by the US in 2018 for procuring weapons from Russia’s Rosoboronexport. Beijing wants sanctions lifted to improve communication between Chinese and American armies, and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin attempted to speak with Li.

Also Read: An Ailing Chinese Crew Evacuated by ICG off Daman


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