Chinese Gen ends life to escape graft probe

Zhang Yang, 66, a member of the Central Military Commission – China’s highest military body – hanged himself at his home in Beijing on November 23. The People’s Liberation Army described his suicide as a “bad move to escape punishment.

Beijing : A top Chinese General has committed suicide to escape a probe against him over his alleged links to two corruption-tainted former PLA generals, becoming the first senior army official to have killed himself in the anti-graft campaign of President Xi Jinping, reports PTI.

Zhang Yang, 66, a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) – China’s highest military body – hanged himself at his home in Beijing on November 23, state-run Xinhua news agency on Tuesday quoted the CMC as saying.

In its first comment on Zhang’s death, the Chinese military has termed the suicide as a “shameful” attempt to escape punishment.

An article posted on Tuesday on the website of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily , official mouthpiece of the Chinese military, said “Zhang, a paramount and powerful heavyweight, used such a “shameful way to end his life”.

It described his suicide as a “bad move to escape punishment”, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post quoted PLA Daily as saying.

Since October last year, Zhang was under investigation over his links to Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two former Vice Chairmen of the CMC who were expelled from the ruling Communist Party, the report said.

Guo was convicted of corruption and sentenced to life in 2016. Xu died of cancer in 2015 while undergoing a probe.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted sources as saying that Zhang hanged himself in his home and the news of his death had been conveyed to all PLA theatre commands.

He is the most senior military officer to have killed himself during ongoing graft investigations targeting the PLA, the report said.

Zhang was head of the powerful Political Work Department of the CMC when he along with the then chief of general staff General Fang Fenghui reported to have faced investigations since October last when they were not seen in public.

Both Fang and Zhang faced anti-corruption investigations ahead of last month’s once-in-a-five-year Congress of the party.

The CMC is headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping who was re-elected by the party for a second five-year term. He has also reconstituted the CMC reportedly with men loyal to him.

The “ousting” of Fang and Zhang is further proof that Xi is “cementing his control over the military”, the Post reported at the time.

Fang was replaced by Gen Li Zuocheng, a decorated veteran of the Sino-Vietnamese war, and Admiral Miao Hua, formerly the PLA Navy’s political commissar, has been appointed as head of the Political Work Department.

Over a million Communist Party officials were punished since Xi launched a massive anti-corruption campaign when he took over power in 2015.Over 13,000 Chinese military officials of various ranks including over 40 top Generals have been punished in the anti-graft campaign.

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