Chinese defense minister’s absence triggers speculation over possible purge

Beijing, Sep 15 (EFE).- The unexplained absence of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, has raised questions about his status and whereabouts.

According to the Financial Times, the United States’ government believes that the minister is under house arrest while being investigated by the Chinese authorities.

The US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, said on X –formerly Twitter– that Li was absent from a recent meeting he had scheduled with the Singaporean Chief of Navy, although he did not provide further details or evidence.

“1st: Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen or heard from in 3 weeks. 2nd: He was a no-show for his trip to Vietnam. Now: He’s absent from his scheduled meeting with the Singaporean Chief of Navy because he was placed on house arrest???,” Rahm Emanuel wrote.

The China-Africa Peace and Security forum held on August 29 was the last public event in which Li, sanctioned by Washington since 2018 for the purchase of weapons from Russia, was seen.

This was shortly after he had travelled to Moscow and Minsk to meet with senior Russian and Belarusian officials.

When asked about Li’s status, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, said she was “not aware” of it.

He still appears on the Ministry of Defense website and his name has been mentioned recently in the heavily controlled Chinese social media.

Li’s absence comes after the disappearance from public view of foreign minister Qin Gang, who was dismissed without explanation in late July.

The Foreign Ministry website deleted a large part of the references to Qin a month after his disappearance, when his dismissal had already been confirmed.

Qin, former the Chinese ambassador to the US, was promoted to the minister’s post last December and disappeared from public view on June 25 after China’s reopening following the end of ‘zero COVID’ policies.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) removed him from office without any explanation, raising speculation over possible health problems, an alleged extramarital affair with a television presenter and even a political purge after months of internal struggles in the party.

Li’s absence also follows the dismissal of two generals from the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) in August and Chinese authorities again did not offer any explanation in this regard. EFE


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