Former Chinese Central Military Commission vice chairman Guo Boxiong (郭伯雄), the most senior Chinese military commander ever tried for corruption, was on Monday sentenced to life in prison after a military court found him guilty of taking “huge” amounts in bribes in return for giving military promotions and transfers.
Guo rose as high in the People’s Liberation Army as a career military officer can go, serving as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission for a decade until 2012, when he retired. By then, he was second in rank seniority only to the chairman of the commission, who is always the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leader.
However, as a drive by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) against graft in the party and military gained momentum, rumors grew that Guo and his family were under scrutiny by anti-corruption investigators.
In speculation online, he was called “the wolf of the northwest,” a nod to the region where he served early in his career and to his reputation for greed.
An explanation of the verdict from the military court issued by the state news media on Monday confirmed that there was some truth to that reputation.
“Guo Boxiong exploited his posts to obtain promotions or transfers in posts for others, and — singly or in consort with others — illegally accepted wealth and assets,” the explanation issued by Xinhua news agency said. “Guo Boxiong accepted exceptionally large amounts in bribes, and the circumstances of his crimes were especially grave.”
The court said that Guo, who turned 74 this month, “sincerely admitted and repented his crimes.”
He also pledged not to appeal the verdict.
The announcement from the court did not specify how much Guo had taken in bribes.
Long before the verdict was announced, party and military officials and news outlets had already brandished Guo’s alleged misdeeds as proof of why Xi had to take aggressive action to stamp out graft.
The official commentaries suggested that deep corruption in the People’s Liberation Army, especially buying and selling promotions, had sapped the preparedness of officers, and even their loyalty to the CCP.
The commentaries often lumped Guo with Xu Caihou (徐才厚), another former military commander under investigation for corruption. Both served in the Politburo, one of the CCP’s highest rungs of power.
“The problems of graft and corruption of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou are staggering,” said an excerpt from a military indoctrination book published in the People’s Liberation Army Daily in May. “But this was not the crux of their problems. That crux was that they had violated a political bottom line.”
Xu died in March last year, before he could stand trial.
The secret trial of Guo began in May, after the CCP leadership expelled him from the party nearly a year ago and handed his case over to the military for a criminal investigation.
The military court that announced the verdict said other suspects associated with Guo’s misdeeds would also be tried. They may include his son, Guo Zhenggang (郭正鋼), a former major general in the People’s Liberation Army who has also been under investigation.
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