The Chinese military's former second-highest ranking officer, Xu Caihou, who was being investigated on suspicion of taking bribes and brokering promotions, has died in a hospital of cancer, the state Xinhua News Agency reported early Monday. He was 71.
A former deputy chairman of the ruling Communist Party's central military commission, Xu was the most senior military figure detained in a sweeping crackdown on corruption within the party, launched by President Xi Jinping.
Xu died of advanced bladder cancer that had spread throughout his body and of multiple organ failure, Xinhua said.
He had been expelled from the party in June last year and his rank as general revoked, but an indictment had not yet been announced. The Xinhua report said the criminal investigation against him would now be dropped because of his death.
Officials last year had been quoted as saying that Xu was ill with bladder cancer and would get appropriate treatment, but also that the case against him would go forward, in a sign of Xi's determination to root out wrongdoing at all levels.
Xu had been under investigation since early last year by the party's anti-corruption watchdog, the central committee for discipline inspection.
Few details were ever released about the investigation into Xu, but Xinhua said he was accused of taking advantage of his position to promote people and had accepted "huge amounts of bribes personally and through his family."
Like most of China's leading generals, Xu never saw combat, serving almost his entire career as a political commissar before being appointed to the Central Military Commission in 1999. Under former president Hu Jintao, Xu was named one its three CMC vice chairmen, along with Xi, then serving as China's vice president. He stepped down from the commission when he retired from the military in 2012.
Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong-based magazine with strong military connections reported that large amounts of cash, jade, gems, paintings and rare antiques had been found in Xu's Beijing mansion, items frequently used as bribes to avoid leaving a paper trail for investigators.
Xu's downfall followed an investigation into another leading general, former logistics department chief Gu Junshan, who allegedly amassed a huge fortune through embezzlement, kickbacks and the selling of favors.
Xu and Gu were the most prominent of 16 high-ranking officers placed under investigation or convicted of corruption and abuse of power under Xi.