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Ex-Chinese defence minister resurfaces in public after prolonged absence

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China’s former Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe whose prolonged absence from the public has sparked speculation about his fate after he paid tribute to a senior Chinese legislator who passed away early this week suggesting that he was politically safe, a media report said on Wednesday.

A floral tribute at the funeral of a senior official on Monday suggests Wei, 70, could be politically safe, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

However, there is no word about the fate of Wei’s successor Gen. Li Shangfu who disappeared from the public and was later sacked.

Former Foreign Minister Qin Gang too suffered a similar fate. Both were not seen in public yet.

Wei’s name was spotted on a wreath at the funeral of Oyunqemag, 81, who served as vice-chairwoman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee from 2008-2013.

In a prime-time news bulletin on state broadcaster CCTV, Wei’s tribute was visible among those from other former state councillors at the side of the funeral hall, with wreaths from President Xi Jinping and other incumbent officials in the middle.

Wei, who headed the PLA Rocket Force, the new name for China’s missile force from its formation on December 31, 2015, as part of Xi’s military overhaul, disappeared from the public eye after his successor, Li was abruptly sacked as defence minister in October last year, without explanation.

Li, who like Wei spent most of his career in the PLA’s rocket wing, was also stripped of his rank as a state councillor and removed from the top decision-making body the Central Military Commission (CMC).

Wei’s indirect reappearance indicates he may have escaped the purge of the People’s Liberation Army’s top brass, including commanders of the rocket force which manages China’s nuclear arsenal that followed Li’s disgrace, the Post report said.

Direct and indirect appearances in official settings are important indicators of political fate in China’s opaque system, where little information is given away.

Wei’s absence from an official National Day reception last year was the first sign that he may be in trouble. He was also not included in a list of around 130 retired senior officials who received Lunar New Year greetings from the Communist Party leadership in February.

In March this year Gen. He Weidong, the second-ranked vice-chairman of the CMC in a surprise remark cast aspersions on the PLA’s much-publicised real combat-oriented exercises to win wars as fake combat capabilities and called for crackdown.

Gen. He’s called for a crackdown on fake combat capabilities’ in the military during the current annual parliament sessions proceedings.

His remarks in the backdrop of the recent purges carried out by Chinese President Xi Jinping sacking of Defence Minister Gen Li Shangfu last year followed by the removal of another nine senior generals, many of them from the key the Rocket Force.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: May 08 2024 | 3:00 PM IST

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