China will court martial one of its most senior former military officers, Xu Caihou, on charges of corruption, state media has said.
Xu is the highest-ranking official to date felled in President Xi Jinping’s battle against fraud.
Xu retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year and from the ruling Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo in 2012.
Xu had been expelled from the party and would be handed over for a court martial after being accused of taking bribes, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The military and judiciary both take orders from the party and will not likely challenge the charges against Xu.
“The party will never allow a hiding place for corrupt elements. The military will also never allow corrupt elements any place to hide,” Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
President Xi heads the Central Military Commission, which controls the 2.3 million-strong armed forces, the world’s largest, and has repeatedly reminded them to be loyal to the party.
Xi has made weeding out corruption in the military a top goal. The crackdown comes as Xi steps up efforts to modernise forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though it has not fought a war in decades.
‘Battle against corruption’
Both the party and the army, the agency said, had to understand “the long-term, complicated and arduous battle against corruption, and the need for the fight against corruption to be put in a more prominent position”.
“Upon investigation, Xu Caihou took advantage of his office, helped others be promoted to positions and accepted bribes directly or through his family, used his position to influence others for profit and his family members accepted valuables from others.”
Xu has been under virtual house arrest for months while helping in the probe into Gu Junshan, who has been under investigation for corruption since he was sacked as deputy director of the logistics department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2012, according to the Reuters news agency.
Gu was charged with corruption earlier this year.
Xinhua said that Xu had been under investigation since March 15, though this was the first time the government has made a public announcement about his case.
“Military anti-corruption efforts have not reached this rank before. It’s very serious,” said Zhang Ming, an expert on domestic politics at Beijing’s Renmin University, noting that the fall from grace of earlier prominent military leaders like Lin Biao and Peng Dehuai were not related to corruption issues.
The party leadership had reportedy faced a dilemma over whether to prosecute Xu, who is undergoing treatment for bladder cancer.