The Chinese military’s former second-highest ranking officer, Xu Caihou died in a hospital of cancer while he was being investigated on suspicion of taking bribes and brokering promotions, state media reported early Monday. He was 71.
A former deputy chairman of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, Xu was the most senior military figure detained in a sweeping crackdown on corruption within the party launched by President Xi Jinping.
Xu died of advanced bladder cancer that had spread throughout his body and of multiple organ failure, Xinhua News Agency said.
Although retired, Xu was expelled from the party in June and his rank as general revoked. However, an indictment had not yet been announced and the Xinhua report said the criminal investigation against him would now be dropped because of his death.
In an online commentary, the official People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper called Xu the highest-ranking general in army history to be brought down by corruption.
“His reputation was shattered by corruption and his pathetic and shameful life came to an end in a hospital bed,” the paper said.
Officials last year had been quoted as saying that Xu was ill and would get appropriate treatment, but also that the case against him would go forward, in a sign of Xi’s determination to root out wrongdoing at all levels. In addition to being president and head of the party, Xi also chairs the powerful party and government commissions that oversee the 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army.
Xu’s death lends needed momentum to Xi’s campaign against powerful corrupt officials, said Beijing-based historian and political analyst Zhang Lifan.