Senior Chinese general being investigated for bribery

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese general is being investigated for suspected bribery, the defence ministry said on Thursday, a man connected to the jailed former domestic security chief and one of the most senior incumbent military officials to be targeted for graft.

China's President Xi Jinping looks on before meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (not pictured) at the Great Halll of the People in Beijing, China December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Nicolas Asouri/Pool

Military prosecutors had already opened a case into Wang Jianping, a deputy chief of the joint staff department under the powerful Central Military Commission, ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a monthly news briefing.

He gave no other details.

It was not possible to reach Wang for comment and unclear if he had been allowed to retain a lawyer.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said in August Wang had been taken into custody in Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan province, with his wife and secretary also detained.

As head of the 2.3 million-strong armed forces, President Xi Jinping has made his fight against military corruption a top priority, with officers warning that the problem is so pervasive it could undermine China’s ability to wage war at a time when Beijing has increasingly projected its influence in the region and surrounding seas.

The People’s Liberation Army is already reeling from Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which has seen dozens of officers investigated and jailed, including Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, both former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission.

Xu died of cancer before he could appear in court.

Wang previously worked closely with former Chinese domestic security tzar Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life in 2015 in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandals in decades.

From 2009 to 2014, Wang commanded the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, reporting directly to Zhou.

Ministry spokesman Yang said the military was dedicated to opposing corruption and had improved its systems to ensure people “dare not to be corrupt, cannot be corrupt, and don’t think about being corrupt”.

China’s fight against corruption had gained “crushing momentum” and huge progress has been achieved, with no let up expected next year, the ruling Communist Party said on Wednesday.

“The battle against corruption has gained crushing momentum,” state news agency Xinhua said, in a report on a meeting of the party’s Politburo chaired by Xi.

“Recent years have seen huge progress and improved public confidence in the campaign to strictly govern the Party and fight corruption,” it added. “In 2017 existing corruption should be reduced, and any rise in corruption contained.”

A “high-voltage” crackdown to stem “undesirable work styles and corruption” must also be continued, Xinhua said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie