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PLA colonel who oversees quality control for aircraft carriers placed under investigation, sources say

China’s military graft-busters are investigating the colonel in charge of quality control for its aircraft carriers on suspicion of corruption, two separate sources say.

Chen Wenchao was placed under shuanggui, a form of interrogation, in recent days, with investigators looking into his handling of 170 million yuan (HK$197 million) over several years, one source told the South China Morning Post.

Chen, a senior colonel, is the chief quality control officer at the 048 Office, which handles new projects for China’s aircraft carriers. He was previously an assistant in the navy’s logistics department tasked with managing barracks construction.

He was promoted to head of the navy’s general hospital affairs department after finishing two major projects in Beijing’s Fengtai district, one source said. Two years ago he was moved to the aircraft carrier office.

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“Chen’s key problem is probably his involvement in barracks and dormitory projects,” the source said, adding Chen’s wife was a general manager of a building materials company.

The second source told the Post that the investigation into Chen had been confirmed by the carrier office. “It’s suspected that his fast promotion could be related to the buying and selling of military ranks in the army,” he said. “It’s risky to let such a person monitor quality control for China’s home-made aircraft carrier construction.”

The hull of China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier, Type 001A, is expected to be finished in the first half of next year, according to an earlier media report. The investigation came after several high-profile suicides in the navy in the space of a month, the sources said. Last Friday, Xu Yanchun, a deputy secretary general in the navy’s political office, leaped to his death from a building in the navy’s complex in Beijing. About a month ago, Senior Captain Li Fuwen, director of the navy’s logistics enterprises management centre, jumped from the same building.

The sources confirmed Major General Qu Rui, who played a lead role in organising a massive military parade in Beijing last year, hanged himself last week.

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The Post reported that Qu, a deputy chief of the combat operations department under the People’s Liberation Army’s newly established Joint Staff Department, was taken away by military graft-busters during a meeting on July 27.