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Former Chinese defense minister expelled from ruling Communist Party over graft allegations

BEIJING (AP) — Former Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu was expelled from the ruling Communist Party and is being investigated for corruption and bribery, the official Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

The Defense Ministry said Li had abused his authority to enrich himself by taking bribes and granting favors in violation of military and party discipline. Li was removed from office in October 2023 after disappearing from public view for almost two months.

Such charges have been leveled against numerous military leaders under the rule of President Xi Jinping, who also heads the armed forces as chairman of the Central Military Commission and has made a crackdown on corruption a hallmark of his rule since taking power more than a decade ago.

Insiders have claimed that he is undertaking a widespread purge of officers suspected of conspiring with foreign forces or simply being insufficiently loyal to Xi. High-ranking military officers occupy an elevated position in Chinese politics and can enjoy extensive privileges.

In its statement, the ministry gave no details of the allegations against Li, other than saying that his alleged crimes were “exceptionally pernicious” and that they posed “an enormous danger.”

Li spent most of his career as a specialist in the missile and procurement branches, and was under travel and financial sanctions from the U.S. at the time he dropped from view last September. That roughly coincided with the sudden disappearance of then-foreign minister Qin Gang and several leading officers in the rocket corps amid unproven allegations of misconduct.

Li was replaced in December by Admiral Dong Jun.

China has the world’s largest standing military, its biggest navy, and a rapidly expanding nuclear