Gen. Li Shangfu
Gen. Li Shangfu

After foreign minister, China sacks missing defence minister; Finance, S&T Ministers also replaced

China has sacked its missing defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu, who has not been seen for two months, as well as finance minister Liu Kun and science and technology minister Wang Zhigang.

Beijing | After keeping mum for nearly two months, China on Tuesday formally sacked its missing defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu who met the same fate as his former Cabinet colleague and foreign minister Qin Gang whose whereabouts are not yet known.

On Tuesday, China also removed Finance Minister Liu Kun and appointed Lan Fo'an in his place. Liu is the third senior Cabinet minister to be replaced without any explanation.

Before the promotion, Lan became the Communist Party chief of the finance ministry in late September.

Another official announcement said the National People's Congress removed minister of science and technology, Wang Zhigang and appointed Yin Hejun in his place.

Wang had served as the deputy minister of science and technology since July 2012 and became the minister of science and technology in March 2018. Again no reasons were given for his removal.

Gen Li, 65, was removed from the posts of State Councillor and national defence minister, and Qin Gang was removed from the post of State Councillor, according to a decision adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Tuesday, the official media here reported.

No successor for Li has been announced so far.

The NPC sacked Qin in July and re-appointed Wang Yi, currently a member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party of China, as Foreign Minister.

Earlier, Qin succeeded Wang as Foreign Minister.

Like Qin, Gen Li was abruptly removed without an explanation.

Significantly, both of them were close confidants of President Xi Jinping who picked them up for high posts overlooking several seniors both in foreign and defence ministries.

Li was formally removed days before a US military delegation was due to arrive in Beijing for a regional security forum of the Chinese military, paving the way for long-stalled high-level military dialogue between the two sides.

In the Chinese one-party system, ministers are policy enforcers more than decision-makers. But both Li and Qin were state councillors a senior position in the State Council, China's cabinet.

Li was the public face of the PLA and a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) - the overall high command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) - headed by Xi.

The reasons for the removal of Qin, Li and Liu have not been stated.

Qin was widely believed to have been sacked due to his affair with a Hong Kong-based Chinese television journalist.

Li, a Chinese aerospace engineer and General of the People's Liberation Army, headed China's powerful missile force which is officially called Rocket Force' before he was elevated to the Minister.

Li's sacking followed a major shakeup in the PLA Rocket Force in which its commander Li Yuchao and political commissar Xu Zhongbo were both replaced without any official explanation.

Both their summary dismissals sent shockwaves among the Chinese officialdom besides raising question marks over the process of selection of officials for key jobs by Xi.

Li was appointed as Defence Minister even though he was sanctioned by the US in 2018 for the purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missiles by China's Equipment Development Department (EDD) in violation of US sanctions on Russia.

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