China sacks defence minister 2 months after he goes missing

China has officially removed Li Shangfu as its defence minister, nearly two months after he disappeared from public view. 

Published: 25th October 2023 07:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th October 2023 07:36 AM   |  A+A-

China has replaced Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu | (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  China has officially removed Li Shangfu as its defence minister, nearly two months after he disappeared from public view. Chinese President Xi Jinping is reported to have signed an order on Tuesday stripping Li of his position as defence minister and cabinet member after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted to remove him, according to China’s state broadcaster China Central Television.

In a similar move in July this year, China had removed its foreign minister Qin Gang after he too went missing. Qin Gang was also formally stripped of his rank as a member of the State Council. Li became China’s defence minister when a new cabinet was named in March. However, he has not been seen in public since August 29.

Reports suggest that Li was taken for questioning in September. A few weeks before Li’s disappearance, President Xi, in a meeting convened for military top brass, had emphasized on political loyalty, discipline and party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces. Li is learnt to be a protégé of General Zhang Youxia, who was Xi’s childhood friend and closest ally in the military.

While no reason has been given for his removal, this indicates China’s intolerance towards senior leadership if they are seen moving away from what is expected of them. Disappearance of top leaders and officials is not uncommon in China; they are often followed by accusations of criminal conduct, including charges of corruption, months later. The disappearance of two sitting ministers in rapid succession, though, is unusual.

Meanwhile, weeks before former foreign minister Qin Gang went missing, he was not seen attending any state council meetings and he was formally removed on July 25. Qin was hand-picked by Xi as foreign minister in December 2022, 17 months after Qin served as China’s ambassador to the United States.

China-Bhutan foreign ministers hold border talks
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi held talks with his Bhutanese counterpart Dr Tandi Dorji when the latter arrived in Beijing for China-Bhutan boundary talks. The duo has said that restoration of diplomatic ties will serve the long-term interests of both the countries. Wang Yi has asked Bhutan to resolve the border issue and conclude the talks to transform relations between Bhutan and China from being just neighbours, to a legal form. Wang said China was ready to work with Bhutan in the direction, seize the historic opportunity, complete the important process as soon as possible, and develop China-Bhutan friendly relations in legal form. Bhutan abides by the one-China principle, considering Taiwan and Tibet as part of the country. Bhutan and China do not have diplomatic relations but maintain contact through periodic visits by officials.

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