China military to prosecute former top general over bribery

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2016 9:16 AM
China military to prosecute former top general over bribery

BEIJING (AP) — A former top Chinese general will be tried in a military court on charges he took bribes, the county's military said Tuesday, in what is believed to be the highest-level prosecution of a military figure in decades.

Military prosecutors have proof that Guo Boxiong and his family took advantage of his position and accepted bribes to arrange promotions and assignments for others, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Citing prosecutors, it said Guo, 74, confessed to the bribery charges.

The announcement ensures a swift trial, conviction and what is likely to be a heavy penalty against the former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission led by president and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Formerly one of 25 members of the party's Politburo, Guo is among the most powerful figures to fall in Xi's sweeping anti-corruption drive. Guo's former immediate subordinate on the commission, Gen. Xu Caihou, was also facing prosecution when he died of cancer in March last year.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper quoted an unidentified military source as saying Guo had accepted a total of 80 million yuan ($12.3 million) in bribes.

Under the founder of the Communist state, Mao Zedong, military leaders were often shifted into civilian roles, where many fell victim to Mao's political campaigns. Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping, sought to professionalize the military and such efforts have gained pace in recent years.

Though officially retired, Guo continued to enjoy many of the rights and privileges of his exalted status.

As the commission's first-ranking vice chairman, Guo was responsible over a decade for the daily operations of the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military. During that time, the military enjoyed large annual budget increases, fueling competition for potentially lucrative control over funds, units and support functions such as construction.

Guo's prosecution had been expected since March 2015, when his son, Maj. Gen. Guo Zhenggang, was placed under formal investigation for corruption and unspecified criminal activity. The senior Guo was expelled from the party last July.

Some top generals are reported to have accumulated stunning fortunes through corruption in both cash and gifts, including golden statues of Mao Zedong and cases of expensive liquor stacked to the ceiling in secret underground caches.

Such practices are believed by some to have sapped morale and battle worthiness in the People's Liberation Army, and Xi has relentlessly driven home the need for officers to keep their hands clean during recent visits to military units.