Li Shangfu: speculation grows over fate of China’s missing defence minister

Li Shangfu, who has not been seen for two weeks, is under ‘house arrest’, claims US ambassador to Japan

China’s defence minister has not been seen in almost three weeks with speculation he is under investigation, the latest case of a senior Communist party official to disappear from public view.

Gen Li Shangfu was last seen on 29 August when he gave a speech to the China-Africa peace and security forum. His last overseas trip was to Moscow and Minsk in mid-August, where he met Russian officials on the sidelines of a security conference, and with the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. The US government believes Li has been put under investigation, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing senior officials. Reuters reported Li cancelled a meeting with Vietnamese defence officials at the last minute last week. Two Vietnamese officials told the news agency that Beijing had postponed the annual meeting.

Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, has been particularly vocal about the mystery, likening Xi Jinping’s cabinet to Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. On Friday, he posted on X/Twitter claiming Li had not appeared at a scheduled meeting with the Singaporean chief of navy because he was “placed under house arrest”. He did not provide a source for the claims. Emanuel’s office and the Singaporean navy have been contacted for comment.

Li’s disappearance follows the surprise removal from his post in July of the Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, also after a weeks-long disappearance. There has been no further information or sign of him since. Xi also replaced two top generals of the Rocket Force in early August, in a major shake-up of the military wing’s leadership. Former commander Li Yuchao had not been seen in public for weeks prior, and there was no explanation of his removal.


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