BEIJING: A Chinese general has hanged himself in his Beijing home after becoming the latest top official ensnared in President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign, state media said Tuesday.
Zhang Yang, the director of the state’s Central Military Commission’s political department, was being investigated over connections to two corruption-tainted former senior military officers when he committed suicide on November 23, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The probe into Zhang followed Xi’s pledge during last month’s Communist Party (CCP) congress to intensify graft crackdowns, which have already brought down 1.5 million party officials of various levels — including top military brass — since 2012.
According to Xinhua, which cited a commission statement, Zhang “gravely violated disciplinary protocols and broke the law, was suspected of bribery as well as taking bribes, and holding valuable assets whose origins are unclear.”
A post on a social media account managed by the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military’s official newspaper, accused Zhang of “escaping responsibility” via suicide.
“The once-high-and-mighty general has ended his life in this disgraceful way,” the post said Tuesday, calling Zhang a “two-faced” person who “shouted loyalty from his mouth while committing corruption behind his back”.
“The army holds the barrel of a gun — we cannot allow any corrupt elements to hide behind it.”
Zhang was linked to Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, top army officials who were expelled from the CCP.
Guo, a vice-chairman of the commission, became the most senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) official to be convicted of corruption in half of century when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016.
Xu, also a vice-chairman, died of cancer in 2015 while under investigation for graft.
– Tigers and flies –
Critics of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which has promised to take down both high-level “tigers” and low-level “flies”, claim it is a front for removing the president’s political enemies.
In the past, graft-fighting efforts have relied heavily on a shadowy, extralegal internal justice system known as “shuanggui”.
But Xi announced during last month’s national congress that the tool will be phased out and replaced with a new legal mechanism.
Chinese courts have a near-perfect conviction rate of 99.92 percent.
Xi has sought to enhance his control over the two-million-strong military, the world’s largest, reshuffling its leadership and vowing to make it “world-class” by 2050.
The military was ordered earlier this month to pledge to be “absolutely loyal, honest and reliable to Xi” in a new guideline released by the military leadership.
Though China’s military budget remains three times smaller than that of the United States, its spending has grown steadily for 30 years, with purchases and the construction of fighter jets, ships and hi-tech weaponry.