China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu Missing For Over Two Weeks
New Delhi: Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu, who has not been seen in public for over two weeks, has been placed under investigation, the US government believes. According to the US, Shangfu has also been stripped of his responsibilities as defence minister, the Financial Times reported.
Li Shangfu abruptly pulled out of a meeting with Vietnamese defence leaders last week, three officials with direct knowledge of the matter said, Reuters reported. Li, 65, was due to attend an annual gathering on defence cooperation hosted by Vietnam on its border with China on Sept. 7-8 but the meeting was postponed after Beijing told Hanoi days before the event that the minister had a “health condition,” two Vietnamese officials was quoted as saying.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Sept. 8: “First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang goes missing, then the Rocket Force commanders go missing, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks. Who’s going to win this unemployment race? China’s youth or Xi’s cabinet?”
Li was last seen in Beijing on Aug. 29 delivering a key-note address at a security forum with African nations. Before that he held high-level meetings during a trip to Russia and Belarus. Li was appointed to his post in March and is watched closely by diplomats and other observers because he is one of China’s five State Councillors, a cabinet position that ranks higher than a regular minister.
In 2016, Li was named deputy commander of the military’s then-new Strategic Support Force – an elite body tasked with accelerating the development of space and cyber warfare capabilities. He then headed the military’s procurement unit from 2017 until he became defence minister.
In a rare notice in July, the unit said it was looking to “clean-up” its bidding process and invited the public to report irregularities dating back to 2017. There has been no update on possible findings.