OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
2:15 PM – Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Li Shangfu, China’s Defense Minister, has been removed from office after going missing for over two months.
On Tuesday, China declared the firing of Li with little explanation. However, Li has been missing and has not made any public appearances since August 29th.
He is now the second high-profile Chinese official to disappear in 2023, after former foreign Minister Qin Gang was fired from office in July with no reason.
State broadcaster CCTV also announced on Tuesday that Li was eliminated from his position as a member of the Central Military Commission, a strong armed forces group led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Additionally, Li was removed as one of the state councilors, where he held a senior Cabinet position outranking a general minister.
The decision to remove Li from office was authorized by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, according to CCTV.
CCTV stated that both Li and Qin have been eliminated from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, and the center of government power. This more or less ensures the end of their political careers, however, it remains unknown whether they will be facing prosecution or additional legal penalties.
Li, who initially became defense minister during a Cabinet restructuring in March, was last seen delivering a keynote speech in Beijing on August 29th and has been missing ever since.
There has been various speculation regrading Li’s disappearance, with some theorizing that he may have became “entangled in Xi’s anti-corruption investigations,” which signaled internal government tensions.
The Chinese government has consistently declined to comment on Li’s locality, although it has been reported that Li was “taken away” in September by Chinese officials for questioning.
In 2018, it was also reported that the United States penalized Li after China’s purchase of Russian weapons. Li is still sanctioned by Washington regarding this issue. China expressed “strong indignation” at the decision, naming it “unreasonable” and “a mistake.”
The Chinese government has also frequently proposed that it won’t allow the U.S. defense secretary to have the opportunity to have a meeting with Li unless the penalization is repealed.
“Ultimately, the supremacy of the party over state is what Xi Jinping has been focusing on,” said Alexander Neill, a Singapore-based strategic adviser, as the China’s State Council now drops two members. “It’s absolutely a hallmark of his distillation of power and control in China.”
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