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Prominent Chinese rocket scientist expelled from top advisory body as part of purge of PLA’s missile force

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China’s national political advisory body has expelled a prominent Chinese rocket scientist from its Standing Committee for corruption, as the People’s Liberation Army continues the purge of its missile force previously headed by the dismissed defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu. The decision to expel Wang Xiaojun from the 14th Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was taken at its meeting here on Monday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The Standing Committee is composed of a core group of senior members.

Wang is formally expected to be expelled from the CPPCC during its annual session here next month as the Standing Committee doesn’t have the power to do so.

Wang’s expulsion is considered significant as he led the development of the Long March 7 rockets used to carry essential supplies to China’s under-construction space station called Tiangong, as well as launching satellites.

Besides being the leading rocket scientist, Wang also led the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, a premier research body.

His expulsion followed the government’s probe into allegations of corruption against the top officials of the Chinese military’s key wing, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. It adds to the mystery of last month’s major purge of the Chinese military in which nine senior generals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including senior officials of the country’s Rocket Force, were dismissed from China’s Parliament– the National People’s Congress, (NPC). The Force, which handles the PLA’s missiles division, was previously headed by former Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu, who was summarily dismissed last year on the charges of corruption.

The dismissal of Li, whose whereabouts are not known yet, came after that of Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who met a similar fate.

Both are regarded as close confidants of President Xi Jinping, who is also the head of the Communist Party of China (CPC), besides the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the Chinese military.

The dismissed generals are among a substantial number of members of the Chinese military who formed part of the CPC.

A new anti-corruption drive in China has led to the downfall of several past and present senior commanders in the Rocket Force, according to media reports.

Those terminated from the Rocket Force were reportedly closely linked to the dismissed defence minister Li.

“Almost all the senior generals [in the rocket force] had good reputations before their promotion. They became immoral after moving to Beijing headquarters, allowing them to have more chances to engage with defence-related enterprises,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted official sources in its report last month.

This is not the first time top generals of the PLA were dismissed for corruption, as a number of them were summarily removed and punished for graft and abuse of power after Xi came to power in 2012.

Over a million officials are said to have been punished in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, according to the official media accounts.

The annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC were scheduled to be held early next month.

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