Xi’s corruption crackdown hits former aide to Hu Jintao

July 21, 2015, 9:05 AM UTC
The Second Plenary Session Of The National People's Congress
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 08: Former secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Ling Jihua attends the plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People on March 8, 2013 in Beijing, China. Urban air pollution is one of the main concerns of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Over 2,000 members of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative, a political advisory body, are attending the annual session, during which they will discuss the development of China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Photograph by Lintao Zhang — Getty Images

China will prosecute a former senior aide to retired president Hu Jintao after an investigation found that he took bribes and engaged in other corrupt behavior, the government said on Monday, the latest top official to fall in a graft crackdown.

Ling Jihua has been expelled from the Communist Party and his case handed over to judicial authorities, the official Xinhua news agency said, meaning he will face prosecution.

The ruling Communist Party announced an investigation into Ling in December. He had been demoted in September, 2012 from a ministerial-level job months after his son was killed in a crash involving a luxury sports car.

A statement released after a meeting of the Politburo, one the party’s elite ruling bodies, said that the crimes Ling is accused of had done major damage to the party’s image and had a “terrible” effect on society.

“He or his family received enormous bribes; he obtained a large number of the party’s and state’s core secrets, breaking discipline and the law,” the government said in a short statement carried by Xinhua.

“He should bear major responsibility for his family members’ acts of seeking profits with the influence of his position,” it said, adding that Ling is also suspected of “other criminal offenses” it did not name.

Ling and his wife also received money and gifts from other, unnamed, people, and he had affairs with numerous women and traded power for sex, it added.

Party members can be punished for adultery as they are supposed to be upstanding members of society. The charge is frequently leveled at high-ranking graft suspects as a way of showing they are morally degenerate and deserve punishment.

In a separate statement also carried by Xinhua, the state prosecutor said that it had approved Ling’s arrest and formally begun to build a legal case against him.

Sources had told Reuters previously that Ling may escape prosecution as he has apparently had a nervous breakdown.

Ling’s brother, Ling Zhengce, was put under his own corruption investigation last June. Chinese media have reported other family members have also been detained.

Ling’s case has presented a dilemma for Beijing; his position is particularly sensitive because of his close connection with former president Hu, Xi Jinping’s predecessor.

A government spokesman denied in March that Hu was being implicated in the Ling probe and sources have told Reuters that Hu approved of the investigation.

It has not been possible to reach Ling or his family members for comment. It is not clear if he has a lawyer.

Since assuming power in late 2012, Xi, who doubles as party and military chief, has pursued a relentless campaign against deep-rooted corruption, vowing to go after powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.

The biggest “tiger” snared so far is ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, 72, who the government said last month had been jailed for life for bribery, leaking state secrets and abusing power following a closed-door trial in May.

Any trial for Ling could be held in secret, as Zhou’s was, because of the reference to him obtaining secrets. The statement did not detail the secrets Ling is supposed to have obtained.