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China says former senior space official under investigation for 'serious violations of discipline'

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s military said a former senior official in the country’s space programme was under investigation for “serious discipline violations”, but rejected reports the investigation was linked to espionage allegations.

Qian Weiping was formerly the deputy head of the Chinese Central Military Commission’s (CMC) equipment development department which oversaw the design of the space programme’s tracking and control systems, according to state media.

“Qian Weiping is under investigation by the CMC’s Commission for Discipline Inspection for suspected serious violations of discipline and duty-related crimes,” a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The phrase “serious disciplinary violations” is often used by Chinese authorities in reference to graft investigations.

The spokesman also said media reports linking Qian’s investigation to espionage were untrue.

China’s military has been a focus of a campaign by President Xi Jinping to stamp out corruption.

Earlier this year a Chinese military court sentenced a senior general who had been chief of a top defence department to life in prison after finding him guilty of corruption.

(Reporting by Michael Martina, writing by Cate Cadell; Editing by Michael Perry)

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