Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - An interview on Phoenix Television with three retired generals on awful levels of graft in the People's Liberation Army was removed from the broadcaster's website a few hours after it was posted.
On Monday, the Hong Kong-based, mainland-tied TV channel interviewed the former senior officers to support President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign.
However, in doing so it exposed a world where money, connections and personal bonds can buy promotions for friends and relatives and cover wrongdoing under a mantle of silence and confidentiality.
All three senior officers end their interviews with a plea for reforms to empower the military anti-graft agency, improve defence spending transparency, and curb rampant graft among troops.
"Everybody in society knows that in the PLA ... you need to pay to join the party. Promotions to become leaders at platoon, company, regiment and division levels all have their own price tags," said retired PLA Major General Yang Chunchang
For the former department deputy head of China's Academy of Military Sciences, the situation "has affected the security of the army. It's too horrible, as bribes are in the scale of several tens of million [yuan]".
President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign against "tigers and flies," i.e. from top to the bottom of the hierarchy, has already touched the Politburo and at least 30 generals, including disgraced Central Military Commission vice-chairman, General Xu Caihou.
Speaking about him Yang said the top brass' way to use and choose people is "number one, money; number two, connections; number three, their personal bond". Xu was not alone.
"After trouble loomed around Xu and others, their aides said they have too much power," Yang said. "For a military area commander position . . . [despite] one bribing him 10 million, when the next bribes him 20 million, he will trash the first guy who give him 10 million."
In the interview, Yang said that military was so corrupt that if anybody tried to report it, he would be blocked by his superiors.
Retired Major General Jiang Chunliang, a former researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences, agrees. Cronyism and corruption, he said, took the front seat in deciding important appointments.
Favouritism, Jiang explained, goes to certain "people's sons, son-in-laws, secretaries, those who are closer to the senior officers, or those willing to bribe officers-in-charge. Incompetent candidates are thus picked for important leading roles".
For his part, a despondent Retired Major General Luo Yuan asked, "Which soldier will be willing to sacrifice for a corrupt officer, or to fight a battle for a corrupt officer? That corrupt officer has his own private coffer; how will he risk his own life for the country?"
The removal of the interviews from the Phoenix Television website suggests a few things, namely that top brass in China's military are not too happy about the fight against corruption, and that Jiang Zemin's grip over them remains as strong now under Xi Jinping as it did under his predecessor Hu Jintao.