BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defence Ministry on Thursday denied that former senior military officer Fan Changlong was being investigated on suspicion of corruption, pointing to a recent article in the military's official newspaper in which his name was mentioned.
Hong Kong media reported earlier this month that Fan, a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission which President Xi Jinping heads and which runs the country's armed forces, was being investigated.
Asked whether Fan was indeed being probed, Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian referred reporters to a Jan. 18 article in the People's Liberation Army Daily about soldiers' training, in which Fan was cited as talking about the importance of drills.
"As for this rumor, I suggest you read the article in the Jan. 18 edition of the People's Liberation Army Daily, 'On using the fervor of troop training to answer the question of winning in battle'," Wu told a monthly news briefing, without elaborating.
Pictures of Fan, looking relaxed in civilian clothes and writing calligraphy, also appeared on Chinese social media this week in an article about his post-retirement life.
Pictures of officials rumored to be in trouble are often leaked online as a way of denying anything untoward has happened to them in China.
The Defence Ministry has previously either declined to answer questions on officers suspected of corruption before the probes are actually announced, or said they don't know anything about the subject.
Fan was on the Central Military Commission until last October when he stepped down as part of a sweeping leadership reshuffle at a once-every-five-years Communist Party Congress.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)