A five-year-old sex tape of an 18-year-old woman allegedly hired by developers to sleep with a city official is causing yet another scandal for the Chinese Communist Party in Chongqing, the city formerly led by fallen politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來).
The 50-something official, Lei Zhengfu (雷政富), was fired from his position as district party secretary after the video, an apparent extortion attempt, went viral earlier this month and his jowly, pop-eyed mug became the butt of numerous Internet caricatures. The scandal may still be growing, as a whistleblowing former journalist says he may release other, similar tapes soon.
The party is already reeling from the scandal that triggered Bo’s purge and further battered the party’s reputation in the public mind.
News of the sex tape, which was apparently shot in 2007, but only leaked this month, comes as China’s newly installed leadership ramps up anti-corruption efforts as it deals with a stream of bribery and graft cases it fears has hurt its authority.
The tape exploded on the Chinese Internet on Nov. 20 when screenshots of it were uploaded by a Beijing-based former journalist, Zhu Ruifeng (朱瑞峰), to his Hong Kong-registered Web site, an independent online clearing house for corruption allegations.
The lurid images show Lei having sex with a woman. Zhu told reporters that the woman, whose face is not visible in the screen grabs, was hired by a construction company to sleep with Lei in return for construction contracts. The company later tried to use the tape to extort more business from Lei, he said.
Zhu says he obtained the video from someone inside the Chongqing Public Security Bureau who gave it on condition of anonymity. He said he was also given tapes implicating five other Chongqing officials, but is trying to verify their content before releasing them.
Zhu said that after the blackmail attempt, Lei reported the case to Chongqing officials sometime in 2009, which led to the construction boss being jailed for a year on unrelated charges.
Xinhua news agency reported on Monday that Chongqing’s corruption watchdog had pledged a thorough investigation of Lei, who was dismissed on Friday, but said it had yet to formally receive a report about the allegations against Lei.
The China Daily in an editorial on Tuesday said the case showed that the “Internet is worth being embraced by the country’s corruption busters as a close ally.”
It also listed a few lingering questions that the salacious case has thrown up.
“Strangely, the mistress was once detained and the contractor jailed for blackmailing Lei,” it said. “What had happened? ... These are crucial questions waiting to be answered.”
With a younger set of incoming leaders announced this month in Beijing, the government is keen to show that those in power are worthy of their posts and that wrongdoers will be weeded out.
Many Chinese are cynical that allegations against high-profile party members signal a true crackdown on corruption. Many think Bo was no more dirty than the average Chinese politician and that he was deposed because he was on the losing end of factional power struggle.
However, Zhu said the fact that his Web site had not been blocked despite the allegations it outlined was a possible sign that Beijing is getting more serious on corruption.