By Associated Press
A former top Chinese general under investigation for major corruption has killed himself, official media reported Tuesday, denouncing his death as a “despicable” act to escape punishment.
Zhang Yang had formerly headed the People’s Liberation Army’s political affairs department but was placed under investigation in late August on suspicion of bribery, having a large amount of property that he could not account for and other acts of that “seriously violated” laws and regulations.
The Xinhua News Agency and state broadcaster CCTV said Zhang hanged himself on Thursday at his home, to which he had been confined during the investigation. No other details were given.
The reports said investigators closed in on Zhang using testimony given by two other former top generals, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, who had earlier become high-profile targets of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign.
All three had been members of the leading Communist Party and government commissions that oversee the 2.3 million-member PLA, the world’s largest standing mlitary.
Xu died of cancer in 2015 before facing court martial, while Guo was sentenced to life in prison last year.
Since coming to power in late 2012, Xi has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption that has felled scores of mid-to-high-ranking officials.
That has while strengthened Xi’s iron grip on the party and military, while eliminating political threats and helping make him the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation.
The campaign has been criticized outside China as trampling on the legal system since it is spearheaded by the ruling party’s internal disciplinary body rather than state prosecutors.
Its targets are often publicly vilified even before facing trial, and no exception was made for Zhang, who had just turned 65, the standard retirement age for high-ranking officers.
“This formerly powerful, high-ranking general used this despicable manner to end his life,” the official PLA Daily newspaper said on is microblog.
“Zhang Yang used suicide to evade the punishment of the party regulations and state law, an act of great odiousness.”
Corruption has long been considered rife within the PLA, with some top generals reported to have accumulated stunning fortunes in both cash and gifts, including golden statues of Mao Zedong and cases of expensive liquor stacked to the ceiling in underground caches.
Along with the selling of ranks and positions, such practices are believed to have severely damaged morale, discipline and combat preparedness in the world’s largest standing military.
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