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Former top Chinese general sentenced for taking bribes

Guo Boxiong got life in prison Monday.
Guo Boxiong got life in prison Monday.

BEIJING — A Chinese military court Monday sentenced a former top general to life in prison for taking bribes, concluding China’s highest-level prosecution of a military figure in decades.

Guo Boxiong was also stripped of his rank and forced to hand over all his assets to the Chinese government, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Guo, 74, is a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which is led by Xi Jinping, China’s president and leader of the ruling Communist Party. Guo also was once among the 25 members of the party’s Politburo.

While few details of the charges against Guo were immediately released, state media had reported that prosecutors had proof that he and his family took advantage of his position and accepted bribes to arrange promotions and assignments for others.

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The reports cited prosecutors as saying Guo had confessed to the bribery charges.

Guo is among the most powerful figures to fall in Xi’s sweeping anticorruption drive. Guo’s former immediate subordinate on the military commission, General 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 taken a total of $12.3 million in bribes.

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, Major General Guo Zhenggang, was placed under formal investigation for corruption and unspecified criminal activity. The senior Guo was expelled from the party a year ago.

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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 and follow the party’s leadership.

Associated Press