Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Crash cover-up tipped scales in China’s leadership succession

In a murky sub-plot to the recent CCP leadership transition, the death of a close ally’s son undermined the position of China’s departing president Hu Jintao

By Jonathan Ansfield  /  NY Times News Service, BEIJING

The Central Guard Bureau, which manages leaders’ security, was also mobilized to assist in the cover-up, insiders said. That riled the bureau’s former chief, an ally of Jiang, and the current chief, Cao Qing (曹清), who already had qualms about Ling.

“They say that Ling was always calling up Cao Qing and telling him to do this and do that,” said a woman from an official family. “Ling was excessive and disrespectful.”

The issue came to a head in July as the CCP leadership debated Bo’s fate and hashed out plans for the leadership transition.

“Just as they were discussing the arrangements, the old comrades raised this,” said an official from a central government media organization. “They said that leaders have to obey party discipline, so this person was not qualified to be promoted to the politburo.”

In one exchange with Hu, Jiang also questioned Ling’s “humanity” over accusations that he maintained his busy schedule and did not properly observe his son’s death, several people said.

Hu felt compelled to sacrifice his ally, partly because the party was also pursuing the case against Bo on disciplinary grounds.

“Hu didn’t want to give the others something they could use,” said a relative of a former leader.

In a pivotal shake-up, Ling’s designated replacement, an old colleague of Xi’s, arrived in July, six weeks before the reshuffle was publicized.

By September, party insiders said, Hu was so strained by the Ling affair and the leadership negotiations that he seemed resigned to losing power and influence. Meanwhile, Xi began taking charge of military affairs, including a group coordinating China’s response to the escalating row with Japan over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are also claimed by Taiwan.

Additional reporting by Ian Johnson and Edward Wong

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