Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu has been removed from his post and stripped of his title as state councilor, state media CCTV reported Tuesday, as part of a major reshuffle within the Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership.
Ex-foreign minister Qin Gang, whose duties were taken over by Wang Yi, has also been officially removed from China’s State Council.
The decisions were made at the end of a five-day meeting between the standing committee of the National People’s Congress — China’s rubber-stamp legislature. No explanation was provided for the sackings nor did state media name Li’s successor.
Speculation over Li’s whereabouts grew after he was abruptly pulled out of a meeting with Vietnamese defense officials in early September — the last time he was seen in public.
Multiple outlets reported that the defense minister had been taken away for questioning and is likely under investigation for corruption, just seven months after he took the job.
Li is now the third member of the Central Military Commission — which commands the country’s armed forces — who Chinese leader Xi Jinping has purged, shortly after calling for “stability and unity within the military.”
Since being elected to office in 2012, Xi has consolidated his power by launching a series of anti-graft probes, with the aim of weeding out the corrupt and politically influential.
Li’s disappearance in September came shortly after the abrupt exit of Qin Gang, who was sacked for an alleged affair which reportedly led to the birth of a child in the U.S.