Former top Chinese general Fang Fenghui sentenced to life for corruption amid Xi Jinping’s crackdown
A former high-ranking Chinese general has been given a life prison sentence for corruption, taking bribes and possessing a large amount of property whose origins he could not account for, according to state media.
Fang Fenghui, former chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army, is the latest military figure to fall in President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on graft and waste at all levels of the Government and military, and the first ranking official to be sentenced this year.
He was also a member of the Central Military Commission, China’s supreme military body.
The 67-year-old accompanied Mr Xi to his first meeting with US President Donald Trump in 2017.
He was then stripped of his post with no explanation in October 2017 and disappeared from public view.
The Government later confirmed he was under investigation for alleged corruption.
State news agency Xinhua said a court martial had found Fang guilty of bribery and having huge wealth for which he had been unable to account.
His illicit assets would be confiscated and given to the Government, the report added, without elaborating.
China’s military, which is the world’s largest and is in the midst of a modernisation campaign, has been an important focus of Mr Xi’s battle to stamp out corruption.
Along with the selling of ranks and positions, practices such as embezzlement of housing and welfare funds were seen as damaging morale, discipline and combat preparedness, something Mr Xi, a former military officer, has been eager to change.
Two former top generals and members of the Central Military Commission controlling the armed forces, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, had earlier become high-profile targets of the campaign.
Fang was born Ma Xianyang (马咸阳) in Chidao Township, Xunyi County, Shaanxi Province. His father Ma Guoxuan (马国选) was a military and government officer who died in 1960. After his mother Fang Linjiang (房林江) remarried in Bin County, he renamed himself Fang Fenghui using his mother’s surname.
Fang joined the PLA in February 1968, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. He served in Xinjiang in his early career. He later served as Commander of the Beijing Military Region (2007–2012). and commander of Guangzhou Military Region (2003–2007). Fang achieved the rank of Major general in 1998, Lieutenant general in July 2005 and general in July 2010. He was appointed as the Chief of Joint Staff on October 25, 2012, succeeding Chen Bingde; when the Joint Staff department was re-organized in 2016 as a new organ under the Central Military Commission, Fang continued his role as chief of the joint staff.
During the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Fang served as the commanding officer of the military contingent during the inspection parade of then Central Military Commission chairman Hu Jintao.
In August 2017, Fang was placed under investigation for corruption. He was sent to military procuratorial organs in January 2018. He was expelled from the Communist Party on October 16, 2018. On Feburary 20, 2019, Fang was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery.
Though most of the generals brought down ended up facing corruption charges, they were also often accused of disloyalty to the party.
Xinhua also reported that Xi ordered the military to relinquish all business operations, despite warnings that it would affect too many vested interests.