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China's Communist Party expels ousted defense chiefs in corruption crackdown

China expelled two former defense ministers from the ruling Communist Party over alleged corruption Thursday, the latest sign of a secretive crackdown sweeping the country's elite.

The moves against Li Shangfu and his predecessor, Wei Fenghe, follow a series of shake-ups at the top of the world's largest military — Li was ousted from the role last year after disappearing without explanation. The apparent purge comes as Beijing clashes with the United States over the fate of Taiwan, and as the increasingly powerful President Xi Jinping consolidates his leadership.

The two former defense ministers, Li and Wei, were expelled by the party's leadership for "serious violation of party discipline and the law," Chinese state news agencies announced early Thursday.

Both men were deprived of their qualifications as delegates to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), state media said, citing a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee.

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The Xinhua news agency said the party's disciplinary and supervisory agency launched an investigation into Li last August that found he had "seriously violated political and organizational discipline."

"He sought improper benefits in personnel arrangements for himself and others, took advantage of his posts to seek benefits for others, and accepted a huge amount of money and valuables in return. He is suspected of the crime of taking bribes," it said.

Li, who became defense secretary last March as Xi began an unprecedented third term in