China has officially sacked its defence minister Li Shangfu, two months after he disappeared from public life.
No explanation has been given for his removal, nor has a replacement been announced for his job.
His sacking follows recent axings of several top military officials, including Qin Gang – who was removed as foreign minister in July.
Mr Qin and Mr Li were also removed from their positions on the State Council, the country’s ministry, on Tuesday.
China’s top legislators, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, approved the removal of both men, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Top US envoy questions China defence minister’s absence
His dismissal leaves China without a defence minister as it prepares to host foreign defence officials in Beijing this week.
Reuters reported last month that he was under investigation for suspected corruption related to equipment procurement and development.
He was last seen in public on 29 August, at a Beijing security forum with African nations. He had only been in the post since March.
An aerospace engineer who began his career at a satellite and rocket launch centre, Gen Li has had a smooth ascent through the ranks of the military and Chinese political elite.
In 2018, when he headed the equipment development arm of the military, he was sanctioned by the US government over China’s purchases of Russian combat aircraft and arms.
The sanctions were thought to be a sticking point for Gen Li, who refused to meet his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at a Singapore defence summit earlier this year.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attends a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, April 14, 2023
He was said to be a favourite of President Xi Jinping, just like Mr Qin, who has now been stripped of his last government title.
In July, Mr Qin was removed as China’s foreign minister just seven months into the job.
No reason was given for Mr Qin’s removal either but the Wall Street Journal cited sources saying he had an extramarital affair while in his post as ambassador to the United States.
Soon after, two leaders of an elite unit managing its nuclear arsenal were replaced, triggering speculation of a purge.
General Li Yuchao who headed the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Rocket Force unit and his deputy had “disappeared” for months before their dismissals were announced.