Beijing: China has handed former senior military officer Gu Junshan a suspended death sentence in the latest milestone of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to root out corruption in the country’s armed forces.
Gu, 58, a former lieutenant-general and deputy logistics chief of the People’s Liberation Army, was tried behind closed doors due to the existence of “military secrets” in his case. He was convicted of embezzlement, abuse of power, bribery and the misuse of state funds, China’s Defence Ministry announced on Monday evening.
First charged last year, Gu was the first senior military figure to fall foul of the targeted campaign seen by Chinese leaders as a key step to modernise and invigorate a military that had become encumbered by pervasive graft.
Both serving and retired officers have warned that corruption in China’s armed forces had become so endemic it threatened to undermine its ability to fight wars.
“The military court determined the amount of bribes Gu Junshan accepted was huge, the harmful consequences especially grave, the amount of misappropriated public funds immense, and the details of his abuse of power especially serious,” an unnamed military court official said in a separate statement.
Gu’s sentence came with a two-year reprieve; suspended death sentences in China are typically commuted to life if no further charges are brought after that period.
The length of time that had lapsed after the first announcement of Gu’s arrest had led some analysts to question whether Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign – which has spanned across the military, government organs and stated-owned enterprises – had met with some resistance.
But recent months have seen the downfall of other even more senior military figures including Guo Boxiong, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Xu Caihou, who held the same rank. Xu died in March of cancer, government officials said, after confessing of his corruption-related crimes.
All three disgraced military officials were said to have engaged in the widespread practice of accepting bribes in exchange for aiding promotions – effectively ‘buying and selling’ military ranks and the perks and patronage that came associated with them.
“For leading cadres at all levels, this is a profound warning to remember that the ‘perks’ given to you today are just the ‘bomb’ that will destroy you tomorrow,” a commentary carried on the Chinese Defence Ministry website said.
Gu, in particular, became especially notorious in China after state media reported the vast cache of gold bars, jewellery, expensive artwork and liquor hidden in his basement.
The apparent desire to step up the military purge comes with an increasing desire to project a powerful and modernised armed forces as tensions heighten in the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas.
China is also readying for a major display of its military might in a large-scale parade scheduled for early next month to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.
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