China has announced that Defense Minister General Li Sangfu is being replaced, state media reported on Tuesday, as speculation swirls over the official’s apparent disappearance from the public eye nearly two months ago.
State broadcaster CCTV said Li had been removed from the State Council, China’s cabinet and the center of government power. No further information was provided.
Li, who was appointed defense minister in March under President Xi Jinping, has not been seen in public since Aug. 29 when he addressed the China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing.
Li is the second high-ranking Chinese official to disappear this year, following former foreign minister Qin Gang, who was removed from his post in July without explanation.
CHINA IS FORCINGLY REpatriating HUNDREDS OF NORTH KOREAN DEFECTS, US AMBASSADOR WARNS
International officials and analysts have speculated whether the apparent disappearances are related to Xi’s ongoing efforts to reform the Chinese Communist Party to strengthen his personal powers and tackle corruption.
While dealing with domestic political issues, the ruling party is struggling to revive an economy that has been hit hard by draconian “zero COVID” measures, an aging population, high unemployment among college graduates and the movement of many of the richest and best educated in more liberal societies abroad.
MITCH MCONNELL CALLS CHINA, RUSSIA, IRAN NEW ‘AXIS OF EVIL’ WE MUST DEAL WITH: ‘THIS IS AN EMERGENCY’
Lee is under US sanctions related to oversight of arms purchases from Russia that bar him from entering the country.
The State Department said Lee was involved in the purchase of Su-35 fighter jets and materials for S-400 surface-to-air missiles from a sanctioned Russian company.
CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
China has since cut off contacts with the US military, mainly in protest at US arms sales to Taiwan, but also strongly implying that Washington should lift measures against Li, which Beijing refuses to publicly acknowledge.
Timothy HJ Nerozzi of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.