BEIJING — A spreading anti-corruption crackdown launched by President Xi Jinping snared its most senior figure yet on Monday when a former top Chinese general was expelled from the ruling Communist Party to face bribery charges.
A former deputy police minister and two other senior officials also were expelled from the party to face corruption charges, the government announced.
Gen. Xu Caihou, a former deputy chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, which controls China's military, is accused of taking money and property in exchange for promotions and other favors, the government statement said.
Xi, who took power in 2012, has vowed to punish all corrupt officials, no matter how highly ranked. But political analysts also suggest the campaign is aimed at neutralizing a retired senior leader, Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the party's ruling Standing Committee who stepped down in 2012 in a transfer of power to younger leaders.
The latest people expelled from the party were close to Zhou, suggesting Xi is on the verge of expelling him from the party, said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"Zhou Yongkang was a bitter enemy of Xi Jinping. He was opposed to Xi Jinping becoming general secretary. This is also a personal vendetta. A power struggle," said Lam. "Xi Jinping has very shortly used the anti-corruption campaign to bring down his political enemies."
Xu's case marks the first time since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution that such a senior Chinese general has been detained, according to Lam. Xu was the most senior uniformed officer and ranked behind only then-President Hu Jintao, who was the commission chairman, in the military hierarchy.
The current president had to win support from Hu and former leader Jiang Zemin to pursue Xu, said Lam. He said Jiang initially resisted but agreed "for the sake of a healthy party they had to get rid of this cancerous cell."
"Xu went overboard in terms of his greed and the vast amount of money he has collected," Lam said.
Also Monday, three other senior officials were expelled from the party — the penultimate step before criminal proceedings begin — including Li Dongsheng, a former deputy police minister.
Investigators found Li "took advantage of his position to seek benefits for others and extorted and received a huge amount of bribes," according to a statement on the Cabinet website.
Jiang Jiemin, former head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which overseas China's major government-owned companies, is accused of abusing his position and receiving a "huge amount of bribes," the statement said.
Also expelled was Wang Yongchun, former deputy general manager of the government-owned China National Petroleum Corp., one of the world's biggest energy companies. A government statement said the party concluded he "took advantage of his posts to seek benefits for others and received a huge amount of bribes."