Speculation grows that China’s Defence Minister is placed under investigation

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Hong Kong, September 15 (IANS) China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday skirted questions on the whereabouts of the country’s Defence Minister, amid mounting speculation that the recently-promoted general has been placed under investigation, a media report said.

Li Shangfu, who was appointed Defence Minister in March, has been absent from public view for more than two weeks, fuelling rumors about his fate after a series of unexplained personnel shakeups roiled the upper ranks of China’s ruling Communist Party this summer, CNN reported.

The Financial Times reported late on Thursday that the US government believes Li has been placed under investigation, citing American officials.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Li was taken away last week by authorities for questioning, citing a person close to decision making in Beijing. Neither of the reports cited a reason for the investigation.

Asked about Li’s situation at a regular news briefing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “I’m not aware of the situation," CNN reported.

Questions over Li’s whereabouts follow the unexplained disappearance of Qin Gang, who was dramatically ousted as China’s Foreign Minister in late July after vanishing from public view for a month.

Qin, who was the Foreign Minister only for seven months, has retained the position of state Councillor -- a senior role in China’s Cabinet which Li also holds, CNN reported.