Reports say that Xu Caihou, China's former vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), was taken from his sick bed at a military hospital in Beijing on Saturday. His wife, daughter and personal secretary were taken into custody on the same day.
Sources say the detention is linked to a probe of People's Liberation Army Lieutenant-General Gu Junshan, a former subordinate of Xu who has been detained since 2012.
Hong Kong-based China expert Willy Lam tells VOA's Mandarin service that Xu's detention would send shock waves through the Chinese military but China's top leader, President Xi Jinping, would not and could not punish the scores of high and middle-ranking officers who had bribed Xu to get their ranks and positions.
“Xi Jinping cannot investigate the greater part of all those military officers that bought titles or ranks from Xu Caihou because, if we compare Xu Caihou to Zhou Yongkang you’ll discover that the Central Commission for Discipline has already detained nearly everyone connected to Zhou Yongkang that it can," he said. "But currently its said out of all those that are either close to Xu Caihou or gave him money, only a few have been detained. Furthermore, Xi Jinping also needs the support of the military. Although currently his authority [over the military] is very consolidated, The PLA is an important source of his authority. Thus, he cannot take too large of an action fighting corruption inside the PLA."
Zhou Yongkang is a former senior Communist Party official who is widely believed to be at the center of a different corruption probe. He is also thought to be in custody, but has not been formally charged with any crimes.
Xu is the highest ranking military official caught up in President Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign. But Lam and other sources say he is being treated for bladder cancer, which may prevent authorities from formally charging him.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.