Tue, Jul 05, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Aide to former China leader gets life sentence for graft

AP, BEIJING

Ling Jihua attends the closing of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 12, 2013.

Photo: EPA

A former top presidential aide and consummate Chinese political insider was yesterday sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets and abusing his power in a downfall set off by an alleged cover-up of his son’s death in a speeding Ferrari.

A court in Tianjin, China, delivered the verdict against Ling Jihua (令計畫) nearly one month after the trial, which was held behind closed doors because the case involved state secrets, Xinhua news agency reported, adding that Ling told the court he would not appeal.

Ling headed the Chinese Communist Party’s general office under former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), a position comparable to chief of staff for the US president.

His fall has been a blow to the Youth League bloc within the party, which had centered around Hu and is seen as a contending force for Hu’s successor, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Members of the bloc in the top leadership have seen their powers diminished since Xi took over, said Willy Lam (林和立), an expert on Chinese elite politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Ling fell out of political favor in 2012, just ahead of a once-in-a-decade power transition, when he was allegedly involved in the cover-up of his son’s death in a speeding Ferrari with two nude or half-dressed women as passengers.

In September of that year, shortly before Xi replaced Hu as party chief, Ling was transferred to the party’s United Front Work Department in what was widely seen as a demotion.

Soon afterward, Ling lost his remaining positions within the party’s upper echelon. In 2013, he was made a vice chairman of the powerless advisory body to China’s ceremonial parliament.

While working at the United Front Work Department and on the parliament’s advisory body, Ling obtained a large amount of state secrets through his contacts at the General Office, violating China’s rules on state secrets, Xinhua said.

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